In an exclusive interview with Muscat Daily, the husband and wife crew of the Bali Blue, who had been at sea for two years, said that the number of pirate attacks in the waters around Oman have made the region too dangerous to sail through.
They added that the deaths of the four crew members of the Quest, which was also participating in the rally and approaching Salalah, at the hands of pirates, brought home the reality of the risks involved.
“It was devastating,” said Bali Blue skipper Pete Bailey, “We were all at sea at the time and taking precautions such as maintaining radio silence. When we got the news of the Quest, everyone was profoundly affected. There was a belief amongst some people that the chances of a yacht being taken were low, and it could be minimised if we took sensible precautions.”
“The chances of a yacht falling prey to pirates here have increased substantially. There are others who have the intention of coming here and may be months away in their journey, and they really need to be made aware.”
The recent development of pirates operating for many months at a time in deep oceans from larger 'motherships', usually previously pirated merchant vessels, has also given them capabilities that were previously impossible. “We were very paranoid as we had heard of pirates using the crew on board to help use the radar and bring them up to date with new information. There seems to be a crime syndicate behind what is going on,” Bailey said.
His wife Carol added that the difficulty of those crewing the fleet of yachts in trying to complete their journey evaporated in the wake of the hijacking of the Danish ING, the crew of which are still being held by Somalian pirates, and the disaster that unfolded on the Quest. “In a matter of minutes it had become very personal, and it was an awful outcome. My difficulty lay in justifying to my family the continuation of the trip and another couple of weeks of risky passage.”
It was important, she said, for the region to learn a lesson from the Asian nations that successfully combated a similar piracy scourge some years ago, and that it was necessary for a similar solution to be found for the Indian Ocean and waters around the GCC and the Horn of Africa.
During their voyage, they have seen international naval vessels combating piracy from Europe, Russia, China, India and the US, but none from nations in the region. “Years ago, the Malacca Straits were the equivalent of what is happening today, and with a collaboration between Asian countries, they got it under control. Something similar has to be done in this region too,” Carol said.