For months Somalia pirates have been wreaking havoc on African and Middle East shipping routes. Today they upped the stakes by attacking the Maersk Alabama, an 1,100 TEU containership built in 1998. (Here’s a PDF of the entire Maersk fleet; you’ll find Maersk Alabama on page 5)
As I write this, reports are that the crew regained control of the ship but Captain Richard Philips is being held hostage in one of the ship’s lifeboats which is drifting nearby. Coalition forces including a US Navy ship is steaming to the scene with an ETA of a few hours.
Earlier in the day, CNN anchor Kyra Philips was somehow able to place a call to the ship and speak with the second mate after the crew resecured the ship. Here’s the video.
The chief mate on the ship is 34 year old 2001 Massachusetts Maritime Academy graduate Shane Murphy, the son of MMA professor Joe Murphy, the author of the popular study guide for merchant marine officers. Here’s a remarkable video interview of Captain Joe Murphy from The Cape Code Times about this incident.
YouTube – Cape graduate taken hostage by Somalis
This incident strikes very close to home with Mass Maritime just up the road. I also have 2 high school shipmates who currently serve as captains of other Maersk ships that sail in these pirate infested waters. I’ve have also had the pleasure of working with current MMA cadets Christiaan Conover as a guest co-host on Messing About In Ships podcast and Jonathan White as a student blogger over at Weekly Leader.
Somalia piracy is nothing new, but they have raised the stakes considerably by attacking a US manned vessel and holding an American citizen hostage. Hopefully, the good that will come out of this is that it will raise enough attention on the problem that real solutions will be found for mariners of all nations who risk their lives in these dangerous waters.
For great ongoing coverage of this incident, check out gCaptain.com.
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