It’s not every day that passengers on board a civilian cruise liner would get so close to a warship on operations that they could wave to each other, but this is just what happened last week when the German cruise liner, AIDAdiva, with over 2,000 passengers on board, met German frigate FGS Hessen at sea.
On Saturday 22 March, FGS Hessen, which is currently operating with the EU Naval Force, was conducting routine counter-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden, when the AIDAdiva, which was built in Papenburg, Germany came over the horizon. The cruise ship was en-route to the Mediterranean, having departed from the port of Salalah in Oman a few days earlier.
Piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden has reduced significantly since 2012 thanks to patrols by naval warships and the self-protection measures of merchant ships transiting the area. In fact, no ship has been pirated off the coast of Somalia since May 2012. That said, the EU Naval Force is fully aware, that whilst the security has improved, the threat from pirate attacks remains, so the warship patrols continue day and night.
Speaking about FGS Hessen’s meeting at sea with AIDAdiva, the commanding officer of FGS Hessen, Commander Dirk Jacobus said “It is very important that my crew remains fully trained to protect vulnerable ships as they sail through the piracy high risk area and it is common for German ships to interact in some way when they meet each other at sea. We carried out a small number of training exercises with AIDAdiva, which I think was a nice surprise for the passengers. FGS Hessen has been away from home since December 2013 and I saw big smiles on the faces of my crew when they sighted the German cruise liner, as it was like seeing a little piece of home.”
The exercises with FGS Hessen generated a lot of enthusiasm on board AIDAdiva, with the passengers shouting enthusiastically and waving their hands. They were able to watch as the warship’s helicopter landed on the deck of the cruise liner and then conducted a ‘fast roping’ exercise at the front of the ship. At the end of the exercises, and with many photographs taken, FGS Hessen gave a traditional ‘sail past’ farewell. Commander Jacobus then passed a final radio message to AIDADiva.
“I wish you and your families a safe and happy trip home. I will remember our meeting for a very long time.”
FGS Hessen will remain in the piracy high risk areas until Tuesday 1 April 2014. She will then hand over her counter piracy duties to German frigate, FGS Brandenburg and start her journey home through the Mediterranean to her home port of Wilhelmshaven in the north of Germany.
Press Release, March 31, 2014; Image: EU NAVFOR