The Maersk Alabama hijacking was a series of events involving piracy that began with four Somali pirates seizing the cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama 240 nautical miles (440 km; 280 mi) southeast of the Somalia port city of Eyl. This event ended with the Action of April 12, 2009. 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. It was the first successful pirate seizure of a ship registered under the American flag since the early 1800s.
See the MV Maersk Alabama article for more information.
According to Chief Engineer Mike Perry, who was interviewed by numerous media outlets including the Discovery Channel and the Marine Officer Magazine, he and 1st A/E Matt Fisher swung the ship's rudder in an attempt to prevent the pirates from boarding. Although this did not occur, their actions swamped the pirate skiff early on Wednesday, April 8. As the pirates were boarding the ship, the crew members locked themselves in the engine room.
The 20 members of the 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.
The crew soon used "brute force" to retake control of the ship, as Chief Engineer Mike Perry, brandishing a knife tackled the ringleader of the pirates and took him prisoner after a cat and mouse chase in a darkened engine room.  Chief Perry had initially taken main engine control away from the bridge and 1st A/E Matt Fisher took control of the steering gear. Once the pirates captured Capt. Phillips and several other crewmembers minutes after boarding, they found that they could not control the ship. Chief Perry then shut down all ship systems and the entire vessel "went black." When the pirate alarm had sounded earlier, Chief Perry had 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. Chief 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 crewmembers in order to gain control of the ship and presumably sail it to Somalia. The crew had seized the ringleader of the pirates, creating a sense of unease for the three remaining Somali intruders. The crew attempted to trade the pirate they had captured  for the captain, but the exchange went awry and after the crew released their captive, the pirates refused to honor the agreement. They fled in one of the ship's covered lifeboats with nine days of food rations and took Capt. Phillips with them.
The Alabama was then escorted from the scene under armed guard towards its original destination in Mombasa, Kenya. CNN and FOX 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.
A stand-off ensued between the USS Bainbridge and the pirates' lifeboat from the Maersk Alabama from April 9, 2009, where they held the captain of the ship, Richard Phillips, hostage. The lifeboat itself was covered and contained plenty of food and water but lacked basic comforts, including a toilet or ventilation. The warship stayed several hundred yards away, with rescue helicopters and lifeboats, but kept its distance, 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 lifeboat. A total of 54 hostages were on two of the ships, citizens of China, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, the Philippines, Tuvalu, Indonesia and Taiwan.
On April 10, 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 U.S. dispatched other warships, including the guided-missile frigate USS Halyburton and the 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 Russian, German, Filipino and other hostages, and get Phillips to Somalia, where they could hide him, making it difficult to stage a rescue, giving the pirates more leverage and a stronger negotiating position. Anchoring near shore would allow them to land quickly if attacked. Negotiations were ongoing between the pirates and the captain of the Bainbridge, who was under the direction of FBI hostage negotiators. The captors were also communicating with other pirate vessels by satellite phone.
However, negotiations broke down hours after the pirates fired on the USS Halyburton, not long after sunrise Saturday in the Indian Ocean. The American boat did not return fire and "did not want to escalate the situation". No crew members of the USS Halyburton were injured, as the shots were fired at wild from a pirate from the front hatch of the lifeboat. Videos of the shooting incident filmed by the USS Halyburton's shipboard intelligence team have been shown in the documentaries of the Maersk Alabama hijacking on the Discovery and History channels.
"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.
On Saturday, April 11, 2009, the Maersk Alabama arrived in the port of Mombasa, Kenya under U.S. military escort. An 18-man security team was on board. The FBI then secured the ship as a crime scene.
Commander Castellano 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 Bainbridge.
On Sunday, April 12, 2009, Capt. Richard Phillips was rescued, reportedly in good condition, from his pirate captors. The commander of United States Fifth Fleet Vice Admiral William E. Gortney reported the rescue began when Commander Frank Castellano, captain of the Bainbridge, determined that Phillips' life was in imminent danger and ordered the action. President Barack Obama had previously reaffirmed Navy standing orders to take action if it was determined the hostage's life was in immediate danger.  The Vice Admiral reported that U.S. Navy SEAL snipers, reportedly from SEAL Team Six, on the Bainbridge's fantail opened fire and killed the three pirates remaining in the lifeboat with a simultaneous volley of three shots. The SEALs had arrived Friday afternoon after being parachuted into the water near the Halyburton, a guided missile frigate, which later joined with the Bainbridge. At the time, the Bainbridge had the lifeboat under tow, approximately 25 to 30 yards astern.
A fourth pirate, Abduhl Wal-i-Musi, was aboard the USS Bainbridge negotiating a ransom and was taken into custody. Teenage Abduhl Wal-i-Musi has been brought to New York to face trial on charges including piracy under the law of nations, conspiracy to seize a ship by force, conspiracy to commit hostage-taking, and firearms related charges. The bodies of the three dead pirates were turned over by the US Navy to unidentified recipients in Somalia the last week of April 2009.
The U.S. Navy evacuated Captain Phillips via rigid-hulled inflatable boat to the USS Bainbridge and then flew him by helicopter to the USS Boxer for medical evaluation. In response to the rescue, Somali pirate commander Abdi Garad issued a threat to attack American interests in the region.
On April 27, 2009 Maersk Alabama Crew Member, Richard E. Hicks, filed a lawsuit against his employer, Waterman Steamship Corporation and Maersk Line, LTD., for knowingly sending him into pirate-infested waters near Somalia.
Houston attorney Terry Bryant, who is representing Richard Hicks, said the shipowners knowingly exposed their employees to imminent danger and took no steps to provide appropriate levels of security and safety for their employees.
On Saturday, May 9, Capt. and Mrs. Phillips visited with President Obama in the Oval Office. A picture was released, but no details of the discussion.
On Friday, August 14, 2009, the lifeboat from this incident was placed on display at the US Navy UDT-Seal Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida.
Captain Richard Phillips married Andrea Coggio in 1987. They have two children, Mariah and Daniel and reside in Underhill, Vermont. Phillips is a 1979 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and became captain of the MV Maersk Alabama in 2009.
Columbia Pictures acquired the Capture Story to make a movie about Captain Richard Philips and his capture. A little is known about the movie, but the movie is likely to be made in 2010 and it is produced by Kevin Spacey.
36. M.E.B.A. Marine Officer Magazine - Summer 2009 edition - "Don't Give Up the Ship: Quick Thinking and a Boatload of Know-how Saves the Maersk Alabama" http://www.meba.us/MarineOfficer/Summer_2009/The_Real_Story_of_the_MAERSK_ALABAMA.pdf