Maryland Man Survives Pirate Attack

Nov. 6, 2005— -- A Maryland man and his wife endured the attempted pirate attack on a cruise ship 100 miles off the coast of Somalia yesterday. But neither he, nor many people about the Seabourn Cruise Ship, Spirit, panicked.

Ray Albers, 63, was lying in bed around 6 a.m. when the captain announced that the ship, which was embarked on a 16-day trip from Egypt to Kenya, was under attack. The captain, Sven Erik Pederson, soon had the passengers gather in the restaurant in the ship's center.

"I was fairly calm, I can't explain why," Albers said. "Because we had been getting continuous information from the bridge, nobody was panicking, nobody seemed terribly upset."

Albers called Pederson a hero for keeping everyone aboard calm. It was also Pederson's decision to try to outrun the pirates by using all four engines rather than the usual two or three, Albers said.

The attackers never got close to the ship, but several witnesses told The Associated Press that the captain tried to ram the attackers to get them to capsize. One member of the 161-member crew was injured by shrapnel, said Deborah Natansohn, president of the Miami-based Seabourn line, which is part of Carnival Corp.

At one point, Albers peered out the window and saw what he described as two 25-foot boats containing four to five men armed with machine guns and shoulder-mounted grenade launchers. They were wearing dark clothes and some had ski masks, Albers said.

The pirates fired on the ship and Albers, who is still cruising on the Spirit in the Indian Ocean, said projectiles still are embedded in the ship's hull. Yet, the damage to the 440-foot-long, 10,000-ton ship was minor and is safe to sail, officials said.

Piracy has been a continuing problem along the Somali coast. Several ships are hijacked each month. Last month, the International Maritime Bureau reported an "unprecedented increase" in the number of serious pirate attacks in the area. Twenty-three attacks had been reported since March 15, 2005.

But Albers remains undaunted. He and his wife have already made reservations for two upcoming Seabourn cruises.