Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Piracy and Cruise Ships - Reality vs. Hype

This afternoon I walked out of a meeting in New York City with a fellow superyacht industry person discussing the now normal issues of what is the happening in world markets and BAM, it hit me in the face:  A giant electronic ticker tape announcing the pirate attack on the Oceania Nautica...which happened three days ago; rendering it hardly worthy of being a headline.  Then I returned to my office and found a note about an article announcing the cruise lines are reacting to the pirate attack...but then read on to see that the cruise lines are doing little different as of yet.

Blazing headlines of something that was pretty much a non-event (see below before you get upset with my characterization) and an article hinting at big changes when it actually says the cruise lines haven't changed a thing and only a few imminent port calls in Mumbai (a totally different subject I thought) have been canceled.

For years I have seen the 2005 incident regarding the Seabourn Spirit mentioned...and mentioned...and mentioned.  It was, until earlier this week, a single incident with a "news" life of three years.  Why?

Seabourn just transited the Gulf of Aden, which lies between Somalia and Yemen, with absolutely no incident.  Seabourn did arrange for an escort by the French Navy, which most certainly acted as a deterrent, but it, alas, was a non-event...and not reported.  Why?

The Oceania Nautica just had an incident where pirates came within 300 yards of the ship.  That is three (3) American football fields, to put things in perspective.  It is, most certainly, worrisome, and must not be belittled, but the fact is that the Nautica is very substantially larger than the Seabourn Spirit and it did what it was supposed to do.  Net result:  Nothing happened.  Perspective:  I have received direct word from a witness on the ship that it was "all very low key on the ship". 

Now, while the media is hyping this story and repeats it with "updates" minutes apart, the reality it is not worthy of being an ongoing banner headline news story.  It is a concern and it must be addressed, but not only for cruise ships, but for the entire maritime industry that plies those waters. It must also be kept in perspective that in both instances - three years apart - no passengers were injured and tactics have been put in place since the 2005 incident to not only place cruise lines on guard, but to be very proactive.

So why are there some posters on message boards like Cruise Critic pretty much ranting how they are not going to risk their lives cruising in "that" part of the world?  Silly hysteria does nothing to responsibly warn of a real danger nor does it do anything to actually improve one's safety or quality of life.  But, to be fair, when the media takes a newsworthy story and then fabricates into being a"reality" that does not even arguably exist it is shameful.  (It is the same media that recently told us we would have to live with US$100.00+ oil for the rest of our lives...as just one other example.)

Keeping it in perspective, performing intimate acts on a ship's railing is more dangerous (yes, it happened on Princess).  Being drunk on a cruise ship is more dangerous. Heck, I am confident walking up the gangway is more of a hazard.  How about a rouge wave?  Helmsman error?  These things do not cause cruisers to shun cruises or cruise lines. 

To the extent the hype brings awareness of potential danger to those with "idiot" stamped on their foreheads, fine.  (Yes, I know, you think that is a bit strong, but how many of you actually thought of "doing it" on a ship's railing 10 decks above the sea on a moving ship...and then actually did it?)  To the extent that it brings to the cruise lines attention the need for more vigilance, fine as well. 

But here, Seabourn took action after its event three years ago and Oceania did as well.  Both worked.  So what is the issue here?

There are bad people out there and we need to be aware of them and, when appropriate, minimize the risks they pose.  But we should not buy into the hype. 

The hype is not to benefit us, it is to benefit the media by having more people read or watch it, so we can be bombarded with more advertisements to sell us things with labels like, "Do not iron garment while wearing."