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Maersk Alabama leaves Mombasa, Kenya, April 21, 2009.
Maersk Alabama leaves Mombasa, Kenya, April 21, 2009.
Career Flag of the United States.svg
Name: Alva Maersk (1998–2004)
Maersk Alabama (from 2004)[1]
Owner: A. P. Moller-Maersk Group
Operator: Maersk Line, Limited
Port of registry: Denmark Denmark (1998-2004)
United States Norfolk, Virginia (since 2004)[2]
Builder: China Shipbuilding Corporation[3] Keelung, Taiwan[1]
Yard number: 676[3]
Completed: 1998[3]
Homeport: Norfolk, Virginia
Identification: IMO No. 9164263[3]
Status: in active service, as of 2010
General characteristics
Type: Container ship
Tonnage: 17,375  tons deadweight (DWT)
14,120 GT[1]
Length: 155 metres (508 ft 6 in) LOA[1]
145.80 metres (478 ft 4 in) LBP[1]
Beam: 25.30 metres (83 ft 0 in)[1]
Propulsion: 1 diesel engine[1]
Speed: In excess of 18 knots (33 km/h)[2]
Capacity: 1,092 TEU[3]
Crew: 21[4]

MV Maersk Alabama (formerly Alva Maersk) is a container ship owned by Maersk Line Limited and operated by Waterman Steamship.[5]

It has a light-blue hull and a beige superstructure like all Maersk vessels, regardless of their flag of registry.[6] It is noted for its hijacking by pirates near Somalia in 2009, the subsequent hostage rescue, and a second, unsuccessful, hijacking attempt later that year.[7]



Alva Maersk was built by China Shipbuilding Corporation, Keelung, Taiwan at yard number 676 and launched in 1998.[8] As Alva Maersk, she was flagged to Denmark. In 2004, Alva Maersk was renamed Maersk Alabama[1] and reflagged to the United States, with its parent company being homeported in Norfolk, Virginia.[2] She has been involved in two incidents, and remains in active service on Maersk Line's East Africa 4 service. Her regular route is from Mombasa, Kenya to Salalah, Djibouti, returning to Mombasa.[2]


2004 detention

In 2004, the ship was detained in Kuwait after becoming the victim of an apparent fraud scheme. According to papers filed by the A. P. Moller-Maersk Group with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in 2005, Kuwait-based expatriates scammed the Group out of millions of dollars. Low-value goods were allegedly shipped under the guise of fraudulent, high-value bills of lading. Maersk was subsequently sued for losing goods that had never existed. Those allegedly behind the scheme were able to detain Alva Maersk in Kuwait as collateral. The ship was released in April 2004 after the A. P. Moller-Maersk Group was forced to put up $1.86 million as collateral.[9]

April 2009 attempted pirate seizure

On April 7, 2009 the US Maritime Administration, following NATO advisories, released a Somalia Gulf of Aden advisory to Mariners recommending ships to stay at least 600nmi off the coast of Somalia. With these advisories well in effect, on April 8, 2009, four Somali pirates boarded the Maersk Alabama when it was located 240 nautical miles (440 km; 280 mi) southeast of the Somalia port city of Eyl.[10] With a crew of 20, the ship was en route to Mombasa, Kenya. Maersk Line Limited, (part of the Moller-Maersk Group, the largest shipping company in the world) is one of the United States Department of Defense's primary shipping contractors, although the vessel was not under military contract at the time. The ship was carrying 17,000 metric tons of cargo, of which 5,000 metric tons were relief supplies bound for Somalia, Uganda, and Kenya.[4][11]

The 28 foot lifeboat where Captain Richard Phillips and the four Somali pirates were held up as seen from a US Navy Scan Eagle UAV.

According to Chief Engineer Mike Perry, the engineers sank the pirate speedboat shortly after the boarding by continuously swinging the rudder of the Maersk Alabama thus scuttling the smaller boat.[12] As the pirates were boarding the ship, the crew members locked themselves in the engine room[13] while the captain and two other crewmembers remained on the bridge. The engineers then took away control of the ship from down below, rendering the bridge controls useless. The pirates were thus unable to control the ship. The crew later used "brute force" to overpower one of the pirates,[13] Abduhl Wal-i-Musi and free one of the hostages, ATM Reza. Frustrated, the pirates decided to leave the ship, and took Phillips with them to a lifeboat as their bargaining chip. The crew attempted to exchange this captured pirate, whom they had kept tied up for twelve hours,[14] for Captain Phillips. The captured pirate was released but the pirates refused to release Phillips.[15] After running out of fuel in the ship's man overboard boat, they transferred and left in the ship's covered lifeboat, taking Phillips with them. The lifeboat carried ten days of food rations[15], water and basic survival supplies[16].

On April 8, the destroyer USS Bainbridge was dispatched to the Gulf of Aden in response to a hostage situation, and reached Maersk Alabama early on April 9.[17] Maersk Alabama then departed from the area with an armed escort, towards its original destination in Mombasa, Kenya, with the vessel's Chief Mate, Shane Murphy in charge.[13] On Saturday, April 11, Maersk Alabama arrived in the port of Mombasa, Kenya, still under U.S. military escort, where C/M Murphy was relieved by Captain Larry Aasheim, who had previously been captain of the Maersk Alabama until Richard Phillips relieved him eight days prior to the pirate attack. An 18-man marine security team was on board.[17] The FBI secured the ship as a crime scene.[18]

On April 9, a stand-off began between USS Bainbridge and the pirates in the Maersk Alabama's lifeboat, where they continued to hold Captain Phillips hostage.[19][20] On Sunday, April 12, Phillips was rescued in good condition.[21][22] Acting under prior authorization from U.S. President Barack Obama, the captain of USS Bainbridge, Commander Frank Castellano, ordered the action upon determining that Capt. Phillips' life was in immediate danger, as provided by US Navy SEAL reports of an AK-47 assault rifle pointed at him.[23][24][25] Navy SEALs snipers on Bainbridge's fantail opened fire, killing the three pirates remaining in the lifeboat.[26], including Ali Aden Elmi.[27] A fourth pirate, Abdul Wali Muse, aboard the Bainbridge and being treated for an injury sustained in the takeover of Maersk Alabama, surrendered and was taken into custody.[21][22]

November 2009 pirate attack

At 6:30 am on November 18, 2009,[7] the Maersk Alabama was reportedly sailing some 350 nautical miles east of Somalia when it was fired upon by four pirates wielding automatic weapons and traveling in a skiff.[28] The assault failed after guards on the ship responded with small arms fire and acoustical weapons.[29] Afterward, a Djibouti-based patrol plane flew to the scene and an EU ship searched the area.[30]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Search results for "9164263"" (Click on link for ship data). Miramar Ship Index. R.B. Haworth. Retrieved April 8, 2009.  
  2. ^ a b c d "Maersk Alabama fact sheet". Maersk Press Release. Retrieved April 10, 2009.  
  3. ^ a b c d e "Maersk Alabama". Container-Info. Retrieved April 8, 2009.  
  4. ^ a b "Somali pirates hijack Danish ship". BBC news. 2009-04-08. Retrieved 2009-04-08.  
  5. ^ "High Drama, High Stakes, High Seas – The Maersk Alabama Pirate Attack". SeaFever. April 8, 2009.  
  6. ^ "Shipping Companies (Denmark)". CRW Flags' Online Catalog. Retrieved 2009-04-09.  
  7. ^ a b Cowell, Alan (November 18, 2009). "Pirates Attack Maersk Alabama Again". The New York Times. Retrieved November 18, 2009.  
  8. ^ "Lawfare - Maersk Alabama a crime scene". EagleSpeak. April 11, 2009.  
  9. ^ "Maersk A-Class". Retrieved 2009-04-09.  
  10. ^ Sanders, Edmund; Barnes, Julian E. (April 9, 2009). "Somalia pirates hold U.S. captain". Los Angeles Times.,0,4104857.story. Retrieved April 12, 2009.  
  11. ^ "Ship carrying 20 Americans believed hijacked off Somalia". CNN. 2009-04-09. Retrieved 2009-04-09.  
  12. ^ "Letter from M/V Maersk Alabama". gCaptain. April 15, 2009.  
  13. ^ a b c
  14. ^ "Africa | FBI in hostage talks with Somalis". BBC News. 2009-04-09. Retrieved 2009-04-09. "According to second mate Ken Quinn, the crew managed to capture one of the pirates and keep him tied up for 12 hours"  
  15. ^ a b "Cargo ship heads for Kenya". 2009-04-08. Retrieved 2009-04-09.  
  16. ^ Konrad, John (April 9, 2009). "Maersk Alabama Lifeboat FAQ". gCaptain.  
  17. ^ a b "U.S. Warship Shadows Somali Pirates With Hostage". The Associated Press. April 9, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2009.  
  18. ^
  19. ^ Houreld, Katharine; Muhumed, Malkhadir M. (April 10, 2009). "Pirates recapture US hostage after escape attempt". The Associated Press. Retrieved April 12, 2009.  
  20. ^ "Pirates Hold American Captain Hostage; Negotiations Continue for Release". The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. April 9, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2009.  
  21. ^ a b Verjee, Zain; Starr, Barbara (April 12, 2009). "Captain jumps overboard, SEALs shoot pirates, official says". CNN. Retrieved April 12, 2009.  
  22. ^ a b "US captain held by pirates freed". BBC News. April 12, 2009. Retrieved April 14, 2009.  
  23. ^ "Official: US sea captain faced imminent danger". Associated Press. April 12, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2009.  
  24. ^ 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.  
  25. ^ "US captain rescued from pirates". BBC News. April 13, 2009. Retrieved April 13, 2009.  
  26. ^
  27. ^ Hassan, Abdiqani (2009-04-22). "Somali Pirate Families Ask for U.S. Pardon". Reuters. Retrieved 22 April 2009.  
  28. ^ Childress, Sarah (November 18, 2009). "Maersk Alabama Evades Second Pirate Attack". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 18, 2009.  
  29. ^ "U.S. ship thwarts second pirate attack". CNN. November 18, 2009. Retrieved November 18, 2009.  
  30. ^ "Pirates strike same US ship again". BBC News. November 18, 2009. Retrieved November 18, 2009.  

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