Retired U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis thinks one of the most lucrative targets that terrorists could potentially attack is cruise ships with little in the way of defences. Stavridis, who recently retired from the U.S. Navy as the supreme allied commander in Europe, gave the cruise ship example as one of two scenarios. He warned that terrorists could someday move weapons of mass destruction on container ships, or attack cruise liners, which typically carry upwards of 5,000 passengers.
“At the end of the day, Kim Jong Un probably won’t launch a ballistic missile at us because we’ll know where it came from. But he might try and find a way to put one into a container and move it into a busy port,” Stavridis said. “Secondly, these huge cruise ships are big lucrative targets. They’re not very well defended. You could see a USS Cole-style attack on one of them. At the really dark end of the spectrum, you could see terrorists actually trying to infiltrate a cruise and acting on a captive audience at sea.” Stavridis brought to mind the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, when terrorists drove a small explosive-laden boat into the hull of the ship as it was being refuelled in Yemen. The attack killed 17 sailors.
And the idea of terrorists infiltrating a cruise has an example on land in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, when just 10 terrorists carried out a co-ordinated attack over four days. Such an attack on a cruise ship, with thousands of passengers on a ship with little escape, would be devastating.
To counter such a threat, Stavridis said he hoped that the U.S. can work with China and Russia, as it does for counter-piracy operations in Africa “The question is, can we at least do some co-operation against terrorism at sea, the way that we do now, marginally, against piracy at sea?” he asked.
Remember the Achille Lauro? On 7th October 1985 just 4 men from the Palestine Liberation Front hijacked the Italian cruise ship. One American passenger was shot and his body thrown overboard by the hijackers.
Another such an attack would be a devastating blow to the Cruise Industry and to the Travel Industry in general. Cruise lines need to make sure their security systems are effective and could defend the ship and her passengers against another such attack.
However, where is safe these days?