St Albans pensioner's pirate peril on the high seas
PUBLISHED: 06:55 27 January 2011
A PENSIONER from St Albans found himself at the centre of a high-speed pirate chase across the Indian Ocean earlier this month.
Bruno Gotthard Liebich was enjoying a two-week Saga cruise from Mauritius to Mombasa when the drama unfolded and says he’s all too aware of what may have happened, had the captain failed to lose the pirates.
The ship was just off the coast of Madagascar and its passengers were mid-way through their evening meal when the pirates began chasing it on January 13.
Mr Liebich, 84, said: “Suddenly we received a message from the captain asking us to please leave everything and go down to the lounge because there was a small speedboat following us, which he believed belonged to pirates.”
The 350 guests on the ship were asked to stay away from the windows as they proceeded to the lounge in case the pirates decided to shoot. The passengers and crew then locked themselves in the lounge and the windows were blacked out.
Mr Liebich, a former POW, said the event had not shaken him but thoughts of how events may have turned out could have caused panic, were it not for the calm manner with which the crew and the captain dealt with the situation.
He said he had nothing but praise for the 200-strong crew who had updated them every few minutes, telling passengers that they were picking up speed in an attempt to lose the pirates.
While in the lounge, drinks were offered and a pianist entertained passengers who had a group sing-a-long as the situation played out.
Mr Liebich said: “Some people were very worried and concerned, and it’s understandable because events could have turned out very differently but I tried to remain calm because whatever is going to happen will happen and there’s little you can do to prevent it in that situation.
“After an hour the captain told us he’d managed to shake the pirates off. He then invited us to finish our meals and everything resumed as it was, although there was a big sigh of relief from all of us.”
Mr Liebich has travelled six times on The Spirit of Adventure and has always been impressed by the level of customer service but realising the potential of what could have happened made him even more appreciative of the crew’s professionalism.
During breakfast the next day, the passengers gave the captain – who was on his last voyage before retiring – a standing ovation.
The news of the attempted attack quickly made national newspapers and was reported in the Daily Mail just hours after the attempted attack happened.
A spokesperson for Saga confirmed that there had been an unidentified vessel shadowing the ship but once it was challenged, it disappeared. They praised passengers who showed true resilience and refused to let it interrupt their trip.