CMA-CGM's cruise ship Le Ponant, was seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia April 4, 2008.The ship was sailing between Somalia and Yemen. CMA-CGM spokesperson confirmed that the cruise ship was in the Gulf of Aden, on its way from the Seychelles to the Mediterranean, and that "the majority" of its crew were French nationals.
CMA-CGM is primarily in the container ship business, but has expanded their fleet to include cruises. CMA CGM offers French-style cruises on board yachts, liners and sailboats. With a capacity for 64 passengers within 32 cabins, and a crew of 30, it offers several cruises in the Gulf region, including between Egypt and Aqaba in Jordan, and off the coast of Oman, according to the company's website.
Le Ponant is fully equipped with four decks, lounges, bar and two restaurants within the 288 feet of length. Le Ponant is one of three operated by the ship line located in Marseille, France, which describes itself as France's leading cruise provider.
"The ship is indeed the Le Ponant, property of the CMA-CGM group. We were informed that there were pirates on board," a company spokesman said. French military forces and a US-led task force, both present in the area and are following the situation closely.
France Info radio said the French Navy had lost contact with Le Ponant. They indicated that surveillance aircraft had been diverted to the area and a ship from the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom was heading towards the site of the attack.
Pirates seized over a dozen ships in 2007 off the coast of Somalia.
UPDATE: April 8, 2008
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner says that he has hope for reaching an agreement with the pirates on freeing the Ponant and her crew members "even if it takes much time and money to pay the ransom, all the more so, because the yacht is insured."
The case is under control of the Ukrainian Embassies in France, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Consular Service Department, because there are citizens from each of the nations aboard.
There is also a report that half a dozen crew members are from the Philippines.
A French commando force that conducts anti-terrorist and hostage rescue operations has been dispatched to East Africa to bolster efforts to free captives on a cruise ship held by pirates off Somalia, a French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Monday.
Ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani says a commando force that conducts anti-terrorist and hostage rescue operations is being sent to Djibouti to "reinforce" negotiation teams in place.
Musa Ghelle Yusuf, local governor of Somalia’s northern region Puntland said he would be “happy to see the pirates killed.”
“The French and American ships must attack the pirates. They have our blessing.” Ghelle said, adding that these hijackers were encouraged by ransoms paid for previous ship attacks.
“These pirates are terrorists and there is no need to negotiate with them. Attacking them will solve future piracy plans,” Ghelle added.
It is expected that cruises may be delayed as a result of the pirate attack. The first cruise was suppose to embark on April 27, 2008.
UPDATE: April 11, 2008
The ship and hostages were freed today. The hostage crew members are said to be safe and sound.