In one of the tourism industry’s stranger developments, Russia begins taking money from tourists eager to help control piracy.

The yacht tour promises photogenic sunsets… and heavy artillery. Photo: wirralwater

Last month, I talked with an official of the U.S. Navy and asked him about the military’s role in preventing and responding to piracy. “We’re working on it,” he said with obvious frustration. “But it’s not an easy thing; you’re in international waters, there are all sorts of other competing interests….” He trailed off and then changed the subject, clearly annoyed by constraints that prevent direct action.

He might be interested in Russia’s new strategy for responding to piracy: folding anti-piracy actions into its tourism industry.

In a brilliant–if deeply disturbing–stroke of entrepreneurial genius, Russian luxury yachts have begun to advertise adventure cruises where passengers pony up almost $6,000 USD per day to cruise from Djibouti to Mombasa in search of pirates.

The yachts trawl at a deliberately slow speed, hoping to attract pirates. If attacked, the cruise passengers are ready to respond with heavy machinery: machine guns and grenade and rocket launchers. And if they want to tack on an extra $8.00 a day, passengers can hoist their very own AK-47. Ammo, though, costs an extra $11.50.

There’s no word yet on whether any of the passengers have successfully taken out any pirates… or whether there’s a money-back guarantee if a showdown fails to occur.

“They are worse than the pirates,” said Russian yachtsman Vladimir Mironov. “At least the pirates have the decency to take hostages, these people are just paying to commit murder.”

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For more coverage on piracy, check out “To Pay Ransom or Not to Pay Ransom,” one of thousands of articles in the Matador archives.