Eleven crewmembers who were onboard the Maersk Alabama when the vessel was hijacked in 2009 off the coast of Somalia have sued Maersk Line and Waterman Steamship Corp. claiming the companies ignored warnings about Somali pirates and sailed too close to the Somali coast.
The complaint states that on or about April 6, 2009, Maersk Line and Waterman Steamship Corp. received notice and warning to sail at least 600 miles off the coast of Somalia because pirates were active in the region, but “through their officers, employees, and/or agents”, made the decision to sail the Maersk Alabama within approximately 250 miles off of the coast of Somalia, which lead to its hijacking.
“Defendants knowingly, intentionally and willfully sent their employees, including Plaintiffs, into an area where pirates were attacking merchant vessels,” the complaint states. “Despite knowingly exposing their employees and the Plaintiffs to such grave danger, Defendants failed to take adequate steps to provide appropriate levels of security and safety for their employees, including Plaintiffs.”
“Defendants showed a willful, wanton and conscious disregard for the safety of Plaintiffs and other officers and crew of the MAERSK ALABAMA and did so primarily for financial gain,” it adds.
Of course we all know the outcome of those decisions and this very topic has been heavily debated amongst the maritime community.
The crewmembers seek compensatory and punitive damages for physical injuries, negligence, wantonness, emotional distress, post traumatic stress disorder and sleep disorders, medical expenses and lost wages.
The complaint was filed in Mobile County circuit court, where both Maersk Line and Waterman Steamship Corp. have offices.
Captain Richard Phillips is not specifically mentioned in the complaint.
The full complaint can be found HERE.
The Viriginia-Pilot reports that the suits seek nearly $50 million in damages from Norfolk-based Maersk Line Ltd., the owner of the ship, and Alabama-based Waterman Steamship Corp., which operated and crewed it under a charter.