Maersk Alabama hijacking

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Maersk Alabama Hijacking
Part of Piracy in Somalia, Operation Enduring Freedom - Horn of Africa
Lifeboat of the Maersk Alabama, after capture.jpg
The lifeboat from the Maersk Alabama is hoisted aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer to be processed for evidence.
Date 8–12 April 2009
Location 240 miles off the coast of Somalia
Result American victory;
  • Pirate group defeated
  • Abduwali Muse arrested
  • Hostage rescued
Belligerents
 United States Somali pirates
Commanders and leaders
Abduwali Muse  Surrendered
Strength
Casualties and losses
None
  • 3 killed
  • 1 captured
  • 1 hostage rescued

The Maersk Alabama hijacking was a series of maritime events that began with four pirates in the Indian Ocean seizing the cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama 240 nautical miles (440 km; 280 mi) southeast of Eyl, Somalia. The siege ended after a rescue effort by the U.S. Navy on 12 April 2009.[1] It was the first successful pirate seizure of a ship registered under the American flag since the early 19th century. Many news reports referenced the last pirate seizure as being during the Second Barbary War in 1815, although other incidents had occurred as late as 1821.[2] It was the sixth vessel in a week to be attacked by pirates who had previously extorted ransoms in the tens of millions of dollars.

The story of the incident was reported in the 2010 book A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Stephan Talty and Captain Richard Phillips, who had been master of the vessel at the time of the incident. The hijacking also inspired the 2013 film Captain Phillips.

History[edit]

MV Maersk Alabama in April 2009.

Hijacking[edit]

The ship, with a crew of 80, loaded with 17,000 metric tons of cargo, was bound for Mombasa, Kenya, after a stop in Djibouti. On 8 April 2009, four pirates based on the FV Win Far 161 attacked the ship.[3][4][5] All four of the pirates were between 17 and 19 years old, according to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.[6]

The crew members of the Maersk Alabama had received anti-piracy training from union training schools, and had drilled aboard the ship a day previously. Their training included the use of small arms, anti-terror, basic safety, first aid, and other security-related courses.[7][8] When the pirate alarm sounded early on Wednesday, 8 April, Chief Engineer Mike Perry brought 14 members of the crew into a "secure room" that the engineers had been in the process of fortifying for just such a purpose. As the pirates approached, the remaining crew fired flares. In addition, Perry and 1st A/E (Assistant Engineer) Matt Fisher swung the ship's rudder, which swamped the pirate skiff.[9]

Nonetheless, the ship was boarded. Perry had initially taken main engine control away from the bridge and 1st A/E Matt Fisher had taken control of the steering gear. Perry then shut down all ship systems and the entire vessel "went black." The pirates captured Captain Richard Phillips and several other crew members minutes after boarding, but soon found that they could not control the ship.

Perry remained outside the secure room lying in wait, knife in hand, for a visit from the pirates who were trying to locate the missing crew members in order to gain control of the ship and presumably sail it to Somalia. Perry tackled the ringleader of the pirates and took him prisoner after a cat-and-mouse chase in a darkened engine room. The pirate ringleader, Abduwali Muse, cut his hand badly trying to keep Perry's knife away from his neck. The pirate was then tied up and his wounds were treated by Second Mate Ken Quinn.[10]

Later, after suffering in the overheated secure room for hours, the crew attempted to exchange the pirate they had captured[11] for the captain, but the exchange went awry and after the crew released their captive, the pirates refused to honor the agreement. Captain Phillips escorted the pirates to a lifeboat to show them how to operate it, but then the pirates fled with the Captain.[12]

On 8 April 2009, the destroyer USS Bainbridge and the USS Halyburton (FFG-40) were dispatched to the Gulf of Aden in response to the hostage situation. The ships reached the Maersk Alabama early on 9 April.[13][14]

The Maersk Alabama was then escorted from the scene to its original destination of Mombasa where Captain Larry D. Aasheim retook command of the ship. Phillips had relieved Aasheim nine days earlier.[15] CNN and Fox News quoted sources stating that the pirates' strategy was to await the arrival of additional hijacked vessels carrying more pirates and additional hostages to use as human shields.[16][17]

Rescue[edit]

Stand-off

The 28-foot lifeboat where Captain Richard Phillips and the 4 Somali pirates were held up as seen from a U.S. Navy ScanEagle UAV.
USS Bainbridge shadows the lifeboat, near the lower right corner of the picture.

A stand-off ensued between the USS Bainbridge, the frigate USS Halyburton, and the pirates' lifeboat from the Maersk Alabama from 9 April 2009, where they held Captain Richard Phillips hostage. The lifeboat itself was covered and contained plenty of food and water but lacked basic comforts, including a toilet or ventilation.[18] The Bainbridge was equipped with a ScanEagle drone and Rigid-hulled inflatable boats. The Halyburton held two SH-60B helicopters on board. Both vessels stayed several hundred yards away, out of the pirates' range of fire. A P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft secured aerial footage and reconnaissance. Radio communication between the two ships was established. Four foreign vessels held by pirates headed towards the scene. A total of 54 hostages were on two of the ships, citizens of China, Germany, Russia, the Philippines, Tuvalu, Indonesia, and Taiwan.[19][20]

On 10 April 2009, Phillips attempted to escape from the lifeboat, but was recaptured after the captors fired shots. The pirates then threw a phone and a two-way radio dropped to them by the U.S. Navy into the ocean, fearing the Americans were somehow using the equipment to give instructions to the captain. The United States dispatched another warship, amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, to the site off the Horn of Africa. The pirates' strategy was to link up with their comrades, who were holding various other hostages, and to get Phillips to Somalia where they could hide him and make a rescue more difficult for the Americans. Anchoring near shore would allow them to land quickly if attacked. Negotiations were ongoing between the pirates and the captain of the Bainbridge and FBI hostage negotiators. The captors were also communicating with other pirate vessels by satellite phone.[19]

However, negotiations broke down hours after the pirates fired on the Halyburton not long after sunrise on Saturday, 11 April 2009. The American frigate did not return fire and "did not want to escalate the situation". No crew members of the Halyburton were injured from the gunfire, as the shots were fired haphazardly by a pirate from the front hatch of the lifeboat.[21]

"We are safe and we are not afraid of the Americans. We will defend ourselves if attacked", one of the pirates told Reuters by satellite phone. Phillips' family had gathered at his farmhouse in Vermont awaiting a resolution to the situation..[22]

Captain Phillips (right) with Commander Frank Castellano of the USS Bainbridge after being rescued.

On Saturday, 11 April 2009, the Maersk Alabama arrived in the port of Mombasa, Kenya, under U.S. military escort. An 18-man security team was on board.[13] The FBI then secured the ship as a crime scene.[23]

Commander Frank Castellano, the commanding officer of the Bainbridge, stated that as the winds picked up, tensions rose among the pirates and "we calmed them" and persuaded the pirates to be towed by the destroyer.[24]

On Sunday, April 12, U.S. Navy SEAL marksmen opened fire and killed the three pirates on the lifeboat. Phillips was rescued uninjured.[25][26] Commander Castellano, with prior authorization from higher authority, ordered the action after determining Phillips' life was in immediate danger, citing reports that a pirate was pointing an AK-47 rifle at Phillips' back.[26][27][28] Navy SEAL snipers, from "SEAL Team Six",[29] opened fire nearly simultaneously from Bainbridge's fantail, killing the three pirates with bullets to the head.[25][30] The SEALs had arrived Friday afternoon after being parachuted into the water near the Halyburton, which later joined with the Bainbridge.[10] At the time, the Bainbridge had the lifeboat under tow, approximately 25 to 30 yards astern.[31] One of the pirates killed was Ali Aden Elmi, the last name of another was Hamac, and the third has not been identified in English-language press reports.[32] A fourth pirate, Abduwali Muse, aboard the Bainbridge and negotiating for Phillips' release while being treated for an injury sustained in the takeover of Maersk Alabama, remained in custody.

The bodies of the three dead pirates were turned over by the U.S. Navy to unidentified recipients in Somalia in the last week of April 2009.[33]

Trial[edit]

The surviving pirate, Abduwali Muse, was held on the USS Boxer[34] and was eventually flown to the United States for trial. In a federal courtroom in New York City, prosecutors brought charges that included piracy, conspiracy to seize a ship by force, and conspiracy to commit hostage-taking.[35] Muse's lawyers asked that he be tried as a juvenile, alleging he was either 15 or 16 years old at the time of the hostage taking, but the court ruled Muse was not a juvenile and would be tried as an adult. He later admitted he was 18 years old[35][36] and pleaded guilty to hijacking, kidnapping and hostage-taking charges (in lieu of piracy charges), and was handed a prison sentence of 33 years and nine months.[37][38]

Legacy[edit]

Two former U.S. Navy SEALs who were under contract to defend Maersk Alabama against further pirate attacks were found dead in their cabins in February 2014. Cause of death has not been established but is believed to be connected to the use of brown heroin. Maersk Alabama has successfully repelled two attacks since the rescue of Captain Phillips, partly through the use of armed security.[39]

UDT-SEAL museum[edit]

The Maersk Alabama lifeboat on which Captain Phillips was held hostage by Somali pirates in 2009 is on display at the National Navy SEAL Museum

The owners of MV Maersk Alabama donated the bullet-marked 5-ton fiberglass lifeboat upon which the pirates held Captain Phillips hostage to the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida, in August 2009.[40][41] The lifeboat had recently been on loan to National Geographic for its "Real Pirates" exhibition at the Nauticus marine science museum in Norfolk, Virginia.[42] The producers of the Captain Phillips film visited the Museum in the process of re-creating the lifeboat and interiors for the set.[43] An example of the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle used to monitor the crisis is also on display,[44] as is the Mark 11 Mod 0 (SR-25) sniper rifle of the type used by the U.S. Navy SEALS to kill the pirates and free Phillips.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Sanders, Edmund; Barnes, Julian E. (9 April 2009). "Somalia pirates hold U.S. captain". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 12 April 2009. 
  2. ^ * McShane, Larry (8 April 2009). "Americans take back cargo ship Maersk Alabama after it was hijacked by Somali pirates". New York Daily News. Retrieved 8 April 2009. 
  3. ^ Huang-chih, Chiang (7 September 2009). "Does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs care about 'Win Far'?". Taipei Times. 
  4. ^ "Somali pirates hijack Danish ship". BBC news. 8 April 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2009. 
  5. ^ "Ship carrying 20 Americans believed hijacked off Somalia". CNN. 9 April 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2009. 
  6. ^ "Somalian pirate suspect arrives in New York to be tried in U.S. court". CBC News. 20 April 2009. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  7. ^ Another Miracle Brought to You By America's Unions (This Time With Pirates!) | Mother Jones
  8. ^ AFL-CIO NOW BLOG | Union Crew Avoids Pirate Takeover, But Ship's Captain Held Hostage
  9. ^ Cummins, Chip; Childress, Sarah (16 April 2009). "On the Maersk: 'I Hope if I Die, I Die a Brave Person'". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  10. ^ a b "Don't Give Up the Ship! Quick Thinking and a Boatload of Know-How Saves the MAERSK ALABAMA". The Marine Officer. Summer 2009. Retrieved April 2009. 
  11. ^ "Africa , FBI in hostage talks with Somalis". BBC News. 9 April 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2009. 
  12. ^ "Cargo ship heads for Kenya". CNN. 8 April 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2009. 
  13. ^ a b "U.S. Warship Shadows Somali Pirates With Hostage". Associated Press. 9 April 2009. Retrieved 12 April 2009. [dead link]
  14. ^ "Heroism on the High Seas". Columbia. November 2013. pp. 24–25. 
  15. ^ http://www.wvec.com/news/National-Maritime-Day-94606744.html
  16. ^ McKenzie, David (10 April 2009). "Pirates raising the stakes". CNN. Retrieved 12 April 2009. 
  17. ^ "14 ships, 260 crew held by Somali pirates". Fox News. Associated Press. 8 April 2009. Retrieved 12 April 2009. [dead link]
  18. ^ Roberts, Rebecca (11 April 2009). "Mariner Details Life Aboard A Lifeboat". NPR. 
  19. ^ a b Houreld, Katharine; Muhumed, Malkhadir M. (10 April 2009). "Pirates recapture US hostage after escape attempt". Associated Press. Retrieved 12 April 2009. 
  20. ^ "Pirates Hold American Captain Hostage; Negotiations Continue for Release". The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. 9 April 2009. Retrieved 12 April 2009. 
  21. ^ Serge F. Kovaleski, Mark Mazzetti; Liz Robbins (11 April 2009). "Negotiations Break Down in Standoff With Pirates". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 April 2009. 
  22. ^ Rice, Xan; Weaver, Matthew (10 April 2009). "Somali pirates vow to take on US military might if attacked". Guardian (London). Retrieved 12 April 2009. 
  23. ^ Gaskell, Stephanie (12 April 2009). "WRAPUP 10-U.S. Navy rescues captain, kills Somali pirates". New York: Thomson Reuters. Reuters. 
  24. ^ "Commander Castellano interviewed by Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News". MSNBC. Retrieved 14 April 2009. 
  25. ^ a b Hostage captain rescued; Navy snipers kill 3 pirates CNN, April 12, 2009
  26. ^ a b "US captain rescued from pirates". BBC News. April 13, 2009. Retrieved April 13, 2009. 
  27. ^ "Official: US sea captain faced imminent danger". Associated Press. April 12, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2009. 
  28. ^ Mikkelsen, Randall (April 12, 2009). "US acted after pirates aimed at ship captain". Reuters. Archived from the original on April 14, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2009. 
  29. ^ Axe, David (17 October 2012). "8,000 Miles, 96 Hours, 3 Dead Pirates: Inside a Navy SEAL Rescue". Wired. 
  30. ^ Gaskell, Stephanie (14 April 2009). "Three Navy SEALS freed Capt. Phillips from pirates with simultaneous shots from 100 feet away". New York Daily News. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  31. ^ McCrummen, Stephanie; Tyson, Ann Scott (12 April 2009). "U.S. Ship Captain Rescued From Pirates by Navy Seals". The Washington Post. Retrieved 12 April 2009. 
  32. ^ Hassan, Abdiqani (2009-04-22). "Somali Pirate Families Ask for U.S. Pardon". Reuters. Retrieved 22 April 2009. 
  33. ^ Washington Post, "Navy Returns Bodies Of 3 Somali Pirates", 1 May 2009, p. 12.
  34. ^ Bontemps, Tim. "Nets security man caught 'Captain Phillips' pirate". New York Post. 
  35. ^ a b Hassan, Abdiqani (2009-04-22). "Somali Pirate Families Ask for U.S. Pardon". Reuters. Retrieved 22 April 2009. 
  36. ^ Benjamin Weiser (21 April 2009). "Pirate Suspect Charged as Adult in New York". The New York Times. 
  37. ^ "Somali pirate sentenced to 33 years in US prison". BBC News. 16 February 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  38. ^ Hays, Tom (16 February 2011). "Somali pirate gets over 33 years in prison". 
  39. ^ Kulish, Nicholas; Urbina, Ian; Mazzetti, Mark (25 February 2014). "Hired to Fight Pirates, but Doomed by Boredom". The New York Times. 
  40. ^ Treadway, Tyler (14 August 2009). "Bullet-marked lifeboat from pirate kidnapping arrives to applause at new home at SEAL museum in Fort Pierce". TCPalm. Retrieved 19 October 2010. 
  41. ^ "Museum gets lifeboat from pirate hostage rescue". NewsOK. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  42. ^ Trejos, Nancy (19 March 2010). "'Real Pirates' exhibit at Nauticus marine science museum in Norfolk". The Washington Post. 
  43. ^ The actual lifeboat from Maersk Alabama is now at the SEAL Museum: https://navysealmuseum.com/home-to-artifacts-from-the-secret-world-of-naval-special-warfare/maersk-alabama-lifeboat-and-mk-25-sniper-rifle-from-easter-seal-rescue/
  44. ^ https://navysealmuseum.com/home-to-artifacts-from-the-secret-world-of-naval-special-warfare/unmanned-aerial-vehicle-uav-scan-eagle/

External links[edit]