By KATE MURRAY
November 08, 2005
A SYDNEY couple have told how a rocket-propelled grenade slammed into a luxury liner just 3m from them as heavily armed pirates tried to storm the ship.
Bob and Gayle Meagher were among 22 Australians on board the Seabourn Spirit as the pirates armed with grenade launchers, AK-47s and rifles opened fire on Saturday morning, but the missile failed to explode.
Mr Meagher told The Daily Telegraph yesterday: "They launched two rocket-propelled grenades in our direction, one of which hit the ship about 10 feet from our cabin, making a tremendous bang. It certainly shook us up when that happened."
The Meaghers, from Greenwich on the North Shore, had joined the Seabourn Spirit at Alexandria, in Egypt, 14 days earlier on a cruise to Mombassa in Kenya.
As they cruised about 150km off the Somalia coast, they heard a commotion and went on to their cabin balcony to find out what was happening.
Mr Meagher said: "I saw a boat with five men in it, with various weapons and they were shooting at the ship.
"They were just below the cabin's balcony and they were seriously shooting at us."
As the attack continued, ship crew asked passengers, who had paid up to $50,000 for the cruise, to move to the dining room.
Mr Meagher said the mood among the passengers and crew was calm while the attack was taking place.
"There was no panic," he said.
With the 151 passengers out of danger, the liner's Norwegian captain Sven Erik Pederson went to the bridge in his bathrobe and tried to ram the pirates.
He then ordered full-speed ahead and changed course from Mombassa towards the Seychelles, out-manoeuvring the raiders.
"The captain did a wonderful job. We had a cocktail party last night and the captain was given a standing ovation," Mr Meagher said.
"We've been told since that his manoeuvring probably saved the life of one of the Gurkha guards, who was at the back of the ship behind a sonic deflector used to deter attackers.
"The deflector was hit by a shell of some sort and he took shrapnel in the head and arm, but he's OK." Another passenger, Briton Mike Rogers, said: "The captain said he would do anything to stop the pirates getting on board. He even tried to run one of the boats over."
The Meaghers were moved from their starboard-side cabin to the port side of the ship while experts from the warship USS Gonzalez disarmed the unexploded grenade.
They are adamant that the incident will not affect their holiday.
"We won't be coming home until the end of November, we've no intention of changing our plans," Mr Meagher said.
The American-owned liner docked in the Seychelles yesterday without further incident.
Security at sea was stepped up after September 11, with every liner having a security officer on board. There have been about 30 pirate attacks off Somalia since March.
In one, a UN-chartered ship carrying food to tsunami victims in Somalia was held by hijackers for 100 days.
The Daily Telegraph
This report was published at dailytelegraph.news.com.au