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U.S. warship near boat carrying pirates

Posted by kayms99 on April 9, 2009

(CNN) — A U.S. warship arrived before dawn Thursday near a 28-foot lifeboat holding four pirates and the kidnapped captain of a U.S.-flagged cargo ship, officials said.

Attackers hijacked the Maersk Alabama, shown here, formerly known as the Alva Maersk.

Attackers hijacked the Maersk Alabama, shown here, formerly known as the Alva Maersk.

Also nearby was the Maersk Alabama — which had been seized early Wednesday off the Horn of Africa. All 20 of its remaining crew members were in good physical shape, said Ken Quinn, second officer of the ship, in a satellite call placed by CNN.

“There’s four Somali pirates, and they’ve got our captain,” Quinn said.

Maersk spokesman Kevin Speers said the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge was near the Maersk Alabama and that its crew was talking to the Navy.

“When the Navy comes in, they’re in charge,” Speers told CNN.

The hijackers boarded the Maersk Alabama early Wednesday, when it was about 350 miles off the coast of Somalia, a haven for pirates attacking shipping through the Gulf of Aden. Capt. Richard Phillips was being held in the lifeboat after the pirates reneged on their agreement to exchange him for one of their own, who himself had been captured by the crew members, Quinn said.

“We returned him, but they didn’t return the captain,” said Quinn, who added that the crew members were in radio contact with Phillips.

 

By 8 p.m., the Bainbridge, part of the allied fleet that patrols the waterway, had reached the Maersk Alabama to assist, a senior Defense Department official said. A Navy plane had reached the area an hour before.

B.J. Talley, a spokesman for the Maersk line, said the ship was about 215 nautical miles off the Somali coast at 7 p.m. ET.

The 780-foot (237-meter) Maersk Alabama is the first U.S. ship to be seized in the latest wave of piracy off largely lawless Somalia. Joe Murphy, whose son Shane is the ship’s first officer, called the hijacking “a wake-up call for America.”

“They’re making more money in piracy than the gross national product of Somalia, so it’s not going to go away any time soon until there’s international concern and international law enforcement,” said Murphy, an instructor at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

The Gulf of Aden, at the southern mouth of the Red Sea, is a key transit point for ships moving into or out of the Suez Canal. In 2008, Somalia-based pirates attacked more than 100 ships in the gulf or off the Horn of Africa, capturing about 40 of them. The ships and their crews typically are held for ransom.

Since 2006, the United States has had an agreement with Kenya to try captured pirates with American assistance. Tom Fuentes, a former FBI official who worked with Kenyan authorities to prosecute pirates, said a 1988 treaty gives every nation the authority to pursue, capture and try pirates, regardless of the nationality of the victims — but the United States can’t tell shipping companies how to deal with hijackings, he said.

“Every shipping company so far has paid the ransom, and every victim has been released unharmed up until this point,” he said.

After a lull early this year, attacks surged again in March, with 15 attacks reported to the Malaysia-based International Maritime Bureau, which tracks piracy. An international task force under U.S. command was set up in January to crack down on the problem, and the European Union, India, China and Russia have ships deployed to the area as well.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Wednesday for more international cooperation during an appearance with Moroccan Foreign Minister Taib Fassi-Fihri.

“I think Morocco was the very first country that recognized us, going back a long time,” Clinton said. “We worked to end piracy off the coast of Morocco all those years ago, and we are going to work together to end that kind of criminal activity anywhere on the high seas.”

The Maersk Alabama was carrying food aid bound for the Kenyan port of Mombasa when it was seized about 7:30 a.m. (12:30 a.m. ET), the ship’s owner said. There were 21 American crew members on board at the time.

Quinn said the pirates were armed with AK-47 assault rifles, while the freighter’s crew carried no weapons. The crew — apparently minus the captain — locked themselves in the compartment that contains the ship’s steering gear, where they remained for about 12 hours with their captive, whom Quinn said they had tied up. The three other pirates “got frustrated because they couldn’t find us,” he said.

The pirates had scuttled the small boat they used once they climbed aboard the freighter, Quinn said, so Phillips offered them the Alabama’s 28-foot lifeboat and some money.

John Reinhart, CEO and president of Norfolk, Virginia-based Maersk Line Ltd., said the crew can try to outrun the pirate boats or turn fire hoses on anyone trying to board the ship, “but we do not carry arms.”

The vessel was carrying relief supplies for USAID, the U.N. World Food Program and the Christian charities WorldVision and Catholic Relief Services. The U.N. agency said its portion of the cargo included nearly 4,100 metric tons of corn-soya blend bound for Somalia and Uganda, and another 990 metric tons of vegetable oil for refugees in Kenya.

“There are starving people in Africa who need this food,” Reinhart said.

 

CNN’s Tom Watkins, Charley Keyes, Mike Mount, Rachel Streitfeld and Jason Carroll contributed to this report.

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8 Responses to “U.S. warship near boat carrying pirates”

  1. oldwoodboats said

    This is ridiculous. The international community has the ready technical ability to flood the Indian Ocean with airborne radar at random times thereby providing all ships an early warning of approaching small craft, and providing targets for patrolling law enforcement. The US could lead such an effort with its maritime patrol aircraft (Navy, Coast Guard, CBP/MA). All it takes iswill and leadership rather than hand wringing.

    Like

  2. Oracle said

    When will the world start to show some cojones and start to
    make these pirates pay the ultimate price. It is obvious that these
    people are not worth smearing with cat shit, the shit would be lost.
    Outlaw small boats carrying skinny black people in the area. They
    are not fishing. Find their pirate mother ships and sink them, take no survivors. Keep doing this until there are no more. You can go to their ports and sink all ships, denying them ships to do this stuff.
    Look for all new construction and luxury, that is where the money
    is going for, then take it out. A bit harsh but they need to pay a
    steep price. Its been done before, it can be done again.

    Like

  3. Mark Brushwood said

    I think it is just plain stupid that none of these crewmen had any type of weaponry onboard their vessel.I mean, come on , waterhoses!?Thats just plain stupid.They should have have been shot when they tried to come on board.Give me a darn break!!

    Like

  4. dorian9 said

    agreed, oldwoodboats! if nato does not want to take more aggressive action towards patrolling these waters then one of the g20 countries should take leadership. those pirates know they can get away with it, that’s why it’s happening. if not, at least arm all cargo ships and let it be known that they can defend themselves if they have to..

    Like

  5. ajlouny said

    This is frustrating as heck, out there with no weapons, unheard of.

    Like

  6. kay~ms said

    I agree… in this day and age, it doesn’t make sense that pirates.. PIRATES? are a legitimate threat… it is only because we are allowing them to be.

    Like

  7. C. Lambeth said

    An example needs to be made of these Somali pirates. Just like terrorists and any other thug, the only thing they understand is power. They prey on the civilities of “enlightened” cultures, legal systems and notions of due process. It’s time to make some examples, and unfortunately, there is no way to guaranty the safety of those hostages already involved. Nobody wants to see them hurt, but the fact remains that you do NOT negotiate with terrorists for it only encourages them to continue their operations. The messages sent so far tell these pirates that they’ll be paid millions of dollars for their services. In the economic desolation, it sounds like a pretty good deal. It’s past time to change that message to: “We will kill you all, no questions asked, for your “services.” I suspect that piracy would decrease. But that’s just me.

    And why are there no security teams or weapons available on these merchant ships?
    ATM/ cash-delivery vehicles in our country carry armed and armored personnel, they don’t get hit too often. Surely this would make any would-be pirates think twice?

    -CL

    Like

  8. C. Lambeth said

    An example needs to be made of these Somali pirates. Just like terrorists and any other thug, the only thing they understand is power. They prey on the civilities of “enlightened” cultures, legal systems and notions of due process. It’s time to make some examples, and unfortunately, there is no way to guaranty the safety of those hostages already involved. Nobody wants to see them hurt, but the fact remains that you do NOT negotiate with terrorists for it only encourages them to continue their operations. The messages sent so far tell these pirates that they’ll be paid millions of dollars for their services. In the economic desolation, it sounds like a pretty good deal. It’s past time to change that message to: “We will kill you all, no questions asked, for your “services.” I suspect that piracy would decrease. But that’s just me.

    And why are there no security teams or weapons available on these merchant ships?
    ATM/ cash-delivery vehicles in our country carry armed and armored personnel, they don’t get hit too often. Surely this would make any would-be pirates think twice?

    -CL

    Like

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