The Maersk Alabama Piracy Incident – A collection of facts

Mike Schuler
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April 13, 2009

Maersk Alabama

April 8, 2009

  • The US flagged container ship, Maersk Alabama was attacked about 300 miles off the coast of Somali by pirates at around 05.00 UTC on April 8, 2009 and presumed hijacked.
  • The vessel has a crew of 20 US nationals and is owned and operated by Maersk Line, Limited in the US.  Maersk Alabama is home-ported in Norfolk, VA.  The vessel was en route to Mombasa, Kenya with a shipment of food aid, amongst other cargo, at the time of the attack.
  • Capt Richard Phillips, of Underhill, Vt, was taken hostage before his crew was able to regain control of the ship. The American crew was able to overpower and capture one of the four pirates, but released the pirate in a failed attempt to trade the hostage for the Captain. The four Somali pirates escape with Captain Phillips aboard the vessels 28 ft encapsulated lifeboat.
  • The ship’s crew was able to disable the vessel when the pirates got aboard. The Somali pirates never gained control of the ship.
  • Chief Mate Shane Murphy, a 2001 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, assumed the role as Captain of the Maersk Alabama when Phillips is taken.  Shane Murphy is son of the famous Mass Maritime professor, Joe Murphy, author of the popular maritime license study guides known in the industry as “The Murphy Books“.
  • The Maersk Alabama’s crewmembers were trained to deal with pirate attacks.
  • The guided missile destroyer, USS Bainbridge (DDG-96), which was a few hundred miles away the time of the attack was dispatched to the scene as the US Department of Defense declared the safe return of Captain Phillips of primary importance.

April 9, 2009

  • Navy destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) arrived on the scene to assist, with the help of the FBI, in negotiations for Phillips’ release. The destroyer was in constant communications with both the pirates and Phillips as it shadowed the lifeboat.
  • At one point, Phillips jumped out of the life boat in an attempt to escape the pirates, but was recaptured by the pirates. The USS Bainbridge, which had a visual of the incident, reported that Phillips appeared to be unharmed after his escape attempt.
  • The Maersk Alabama and its crew resumed their journey to the Port of Mombasa, Kenya with armed security detail on board.
  • Both the guided-missile frigate USS Halyburton (FFG-40) and the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD-4) were dispatched to assist with the situation.

April 10, 2009

  • The kidnappers call for additional reinforcements from Somali pirates on the mainland in order to help with negotiations, but the other pirates were unsuccessful in reaching the drifting lifeboat.
  • USS Bainbridge, which had been communicating with the four pirates via radio, used smaller boats to make deliveries of food and water to the lifeboat.
  • The USS Halyburton arrived on the scene and was later followed USS Boxer.
  • President Obama authorized the use of appropriate military action could be used to rescue Richard Phillips if his life was in “imminent danger”.

April 11, 2009

  • President Obama gives a follow-up order giving more specific authorization that included allowing a Navy commander to order sharp shooters to take out the pirates if the situation became dire.
  • The pirates grew increasingly agitated and at one point even fired upon one of the smaller boats that was approaching the lifeboat, forcing it to turn back – The US did not fire back.
  • The Maersk Alabama and its crew arrived at the port of Mombasa on Saturday evening where they remained aboard the vessel pending further investigation.
  • At one point, one the the kidnappers who was stabbed in the hand during the initial altercation with the crew, asked to come aboard the USS Bainbridge to assist with negotiations.

April 12, 2009

  • As seas grew rougher, the USS Bainbridge offered to tow the life boat to calmer water.  The kidnappers agreed.
  • Negotiations with the 3 remaining pirates aboard the life boat grew heated.  One of the kidnappers pointed an AK-47 to the back of Phillips while the other two were positioned by the open hatch of the lifeboat. It was at this point that a Navy commander gave orders for a team of sharp shooters, positioned on the fantail of the USS Bainbridge about 75 feet from the lifeboat, to take action against the kidnappers, in fear that Phillips was about to be shot. The 3 pirates on the lifeboat were shot and killed.  The fourth remained custody of the US Navy.
  • Following the rescue, Phillips was initially taken aboard the USS Bainbridge (DDG 96). Phillips was subsequently flown to USS Boxer (LHD-4) where he was able to contact his family, received a routine medical evaluation and rest comfortably.
  • The crew on board the Maersk Alabama celebrated news of their Captains rescue back in Kenya.

April 13, 2009

If you have any more facts surrounding the Maersk Alabama piracy incident or want to give your opinion the outcome, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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