A few days ago, Synfo.com posted this very disturbing article about what appears to have been an attempted piracy attack on the 197-foot Lurssen motoryacht Linda Lou. The yacht is one of the largest and most expensive available for charter in the world, with a weekly base rate of about $670,000 for 12 guests as part of the International Yacht Collection fleet.
According to the Synfo report, Linda Lou was en route to the Abu Dhabi Yacht Show with only crew aboard when several skiffs approached the yacht in a coordinated manner. Their approach caused enough alarm that the captain put female crew members into a "safe room" and contacted a nearby warship for assistance. The warship sent a helicopter, whose presence caused the skiffs to retreat. Nobody was hurt, and the yacht continued on course without further incident.
Whenever these types of articles appear in the media, I receive an influx of reader questions about pirates and the safety of yacht charter vacations. People thinking about charter for some reason believe that pirates attacking boats off the coast of Africa are a threat to safe boating vacations in Europe and the Caribbean.
The reality is that piracy in the part of the world where Linda Lou was traveling (a transit zone, not a popular charter destination) has only one thing to do with charter yacht vacations: It is making it harder for new destinations to develop.
Currently, the Mediterranean is the world's premier charter locale. More yachts are typically available for charter in the Mediterranean than anyplace else. In order for these yachts to charter in new, emerging destinations during the "off season," the yacht owners have to move the boats from the Mediterranean and through the Red Sea, following the same type of route that Linda Lou was on.
The more piracy that occurs along this transit route, the more reluctant owners become to put their yachts and crew in danger, and the fewer international-quality yachts become available for charter in the Middle East, the Indian Ocean, and Southeast Asia.
You can see the problematic geography in this map, which I have published in this blog once before:
With all of this in mind, I hope that nobody considering a yacht charter vacation will be in any way dissuaded by the recent events involving Linda Lou. No charter clients were ever in danger, and the yacht was in a location that rarely, if ever, is offered as an actual charter destination.
I also hope that the governments of would-be charter hubs from the Seychelles to Thailand will begin to work together on this problem off the coast of Africa. The piracy is causing a disruption in the evolution of charter as a truly global industry, and it will require an international effort--as opposed to a few well-prepared yacht owners and captains--to create an ultimate solution.