Pirated Maersk Alabama Captain Richard Phillips on The Daily Show

You probably remember Captain Richard Phillips, he was the master aboard the Maersk Alabama who sacrificed himself in order to protect his crew when Somali pirates tried to take over his ship.  Jon Stewart does a great interview with him.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Captain Phillips has a new book out: A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea

The Business of Piracy / The Piracy of Business

Hassan Abdullahi, a 21-year-old pirate from the Puntland region of Somalia. Scott Baldauf / The Christian Science MonitorThe May 31, 2009 issue of The Christian Science Monitor has 2 fascinating articles about Somali piracy.

The first is by Scott Baldauf and is titled Pirates, Inc.: Inside the booming Somali business. Baldauf travels to Somaliland to interview some of the players in this mutlimillion dollar business operation including 21 year old pirate, Hassan Abdullahi (pictured right). While Baldauf readily acknowledges that the economic conditions in Somalia are desperate, making piracy an attractive profession for young men, he doesn’t directly address the overfishing and pollution that is cited in so many other articles. Instead, the journalist portrays Somali piracy as organized, international big business.

“Who are the real pirates?” asks Andrew Mwangura, secretary-general of the East African Seafarers Association in Mombasa. “It’s not these young boys on the boats. It’s the people behind them, with the money to buy the boats and the motors and the guns and the GPS devices. They put their money here in Kenya, but also in Dubai or Canada or Mumbai.” He pauses. “The real pirate could be a white person like you.”

In the same issue of The Christian Science Monitor, Adian Jones writes a companion piece that is an interesting juxtaposition to Baldauf’s article. Somali piracy a boost for London’s shipping insurers.

“Take the Sirius Star – it is worth about $85 [million] to $90 million. At the upper end you are looking at perhaps an extra $180,000 per transit,” says the broker. “That’s good money being made.”

Hmm, “good money” might not have been the best way to characterize it.

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Silly Pirates!

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ji3RiuFRZEA]
YouTube – Somali Pirates Attack French Warship By Mistake

Well, there’s really not much silly or fun about Somali pirates these days. This video does beg one to ask how they get themselves 1,100 km offshore in these lightly provisioned small boats. 1,100 kms = 593 nautical miles which is approximately the distance to Bermuda from the US mainland. Imagine making that trip in a skiff with an outboard and no head! Obviously they are supported by feeder ships which begs the next question of why the multilateral naval forces can’t easily find and capture or destroy these larger vessels.

What an absurd situation professional mariners find themselves in in that part of the world! More 18th century than 21st!

Thanks to AMVER via Twitter

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FotoFriday: The Big Picture on Somali Pirates

The Belize flagged MV Faina is escorted by a Kenyan port authority tug vessel into the port of Mombasa, Kenya on February 12, 2009, after it was released by Somali pirates a week ago. It arrived in Mombasa amid a raging controversy over its cargo of battle tanks and ammunition. While Kenya has always said the shipment was for its armed forces, several experts and diplomats in the region have revealed it was in fact destined to the government of South Sudan and was the fifth delivery of its kind in less than two years. (TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)Ma

Unfortunately Somali pirates have made big news again this week. Back on March 16, 2009, the Boston Globe’s The Big Picture blog covered this story with an amazing set of images that are worth revisiting. It’s really a sad story for all involved.

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Modern Day Pirates, No Kidding Matter (Updated)

NYTimes by Matt Rota

Update (April 10, 2009): Almost a year after it was originally published, the below post continues to receive considerable traffic, especially after the pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama and the kidnapping of Captain Richard Philips by Somali pirates.

As of this update the situation remains incredibly tense with reports of a failed escape attempt by Captain Philips around midnight last night and automatic gunfire from the pirate commandeered lifeboat. There are also reports of several previous hijacked ships with a large number of international hostages are steaming to the standoff area in an effort to “rescue” the drifting pirates and move Captain Philips ashore in order to secure ransom.

In the year since this post was originally published, little has been done to try to solve this very serious problem. In fact, the situation has gotten much worse with Somalia pirates getting more experience, becoming bolder in their tactics and raising the stakes considerably. What until now has for the most part been larceny on a large scale, now teeters on becoming much worse.

It’s impossible to imagine the nightmare that Captain Philips and his family are currently enduring; our thoughts and prayers go out to them. We hope that the international community will finally begin to treat the Somali pirate problem with the attention that it deserves. International mariners should not continue to risk their lives while the world stands by waiting for the problem to somehow mysteriously solve itself. Like so many issues in the world today, where’s the real leadership?

Related posts: High Drama, High Stakes, High Seas – The Maersk Alabama Pirate Attack and The Maersk Alabama Pirate Attack from a Unique Perspective

Original Post (April 20, 2008)

While Captains Feathersword and Jack Sparrow may present a friendly face to piracy through kids TV and blockbuster movies, the reality is that modern day pirates are no kidding matter. Make no mistake about it, pirates range from petty thieves to ruthless terrorists but in the end they are all dangerous criminals.

John S. Burnett, author of Dangerous Waters: Modern Piracy and Terror on the High Seas wrote an interesting Op Ed essay for today’s – April 20, 2008 – Sunday NY Times entitled Captain Kidd, Human-Rights Victim. Please read it.

Burnett compares France’s recent show of force in successfully handling the hijacking of the French luxury cruise ship Ponant off the coast of Somalia to the British Foreign Office’s directorate to the Royal Navy not to detain any pirate because doing so would violate human rights. Pirates can claim UK asylum – The Sunday Times (UK) April 13, 2008.

High seas piracy remains a big problem for mariners around the world. Here’s a link to the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau’s Weekly Piracy Report which demonstrates the frequency, seriousness and breadth of this issue. Below you will find their 2008 High Risk Areas. (Click here for direct access to map.)

Piracy attacks map_1208708119171

It’s difficult to understand and tough to swallow the British Foreign Office’s position on piracy. It’s doubtful that a similar position has been established for would be airline hijackers or subway bombers. Why would a current sea power who in previously eras worked so hard at eradicating piracy across the globe express a position that appears to go soft on contemporary pirates (aka terrorists)?

I’m all for protecting human rights, but this doesn’t send the right message to the good men and women who sail the seas advancing maritime commerce or other important global interests.

Related post: Pirates Invade Wall Street Journal! (Nov. 19, 2008 )

Artwork: Matt Rota for NY Times

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High Drama, High Stakes, High Seas – The Maersk Alabama Pirate Attack

image 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=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrrKbtVnsK0]
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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