Danger Adrift: Modern-Day Pirates Threaten More Than the High Seas

"Most efforts to control piracy is Band-Aid stuff," said Burnett. He and others hope that the IMB, along with the United Nation's International Maritime Organization, can convince the United Nations Security Council to take action.

Despite the global decline in reported pirate attacks, he believes the number of attacks probably stands more in the ballpark of 2,000 a year versus IMB's number of 205. "It's not just about bad press or about keeping insurance premiums low, it's mostly about cost," Burnett said. It costs $20,000 to $50,000 a day to run a ship, making all stops -- even for an investigation -- expensive, lost time, he said.

That's why Unitel, a maritime security firm, recommends that all ships have armed security personnel on board or have an armed escort in power boats.

"A bank doesn't transport money without armed guards or an armored car, why should boats not be able to protect themselves?" said Unitel security adviser William Callahan.

The IMB says armed guards pose more of a risk than a safeguard. In addition, countries don't want to have foreigners impeding on their sovereign territory. And if ships are transporting volatile cargo like oil, a gunshot could lead to an explosive situation.

Armed escorts might be the better solution, but Burnett points out that securing every ship is a Herculean feat that would blow shipping costs out of the water.

Still Safe to Cruise?

So does that mean you shouldn't book a "Love Boat" cruise?

"I would take a cruise but just not in pirate territory," Burnett said. He recommends Hawaii, Alaska and yes, the Caribbean.

"Cruising is the safest way to travel and there is no reason why that is not the case today," said Michael Crye, president of the International Council of Cruise Lines.

He stressed that cruise ships screen all of their passengers and their belongings. In addition, all ships have up to 20 trained security officers on board at all times and boats have surveillance cameras and high-tech communication as well as non-lethal weapons to thwart attacks.

"The fact that this ship [Seabourn Spirit] was able to safely deliver its passengers to a safe port demonstrates the effectiveness of the security plans and countermeasures," Crye said.

In Seabourn's case, the captain out-navigated the pirates and used a parabolic audio device, a "boom box" that emits an ear-splitting sound, to ward off the attackers. Regardless, the captain was about 100 miles offshore despite IMB's warning to stay 200 miles away from the coast.

Crye said the cruise ship industry heeds the IMB's sea warnings and meets every two months with different intelligence agencies to review its security plans, and map out new cruise itineraries.

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