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Saturday, January 1, 2022

Maersk Alabama piracy - Capt Phillips movie

In good old days, there were legends about kadal kolliars (sea pirates).  Remember the 1965 tamil movie ‘Aayirathil Oruvan” where MGR played the slave’s head and fought for their rights.  Bartholomew Roberts also known as Black Bart was known as violent plunderer of ship rumoured to have hit 400 ships. He was described as a tall, attractive man wearing expensive clothes, jewellery and dressed in gorgeous crimson waistcoat with expensive hat.   On his chests hung a heavy gold chain.

Even in the modern World, piracy does exist ! – ships have been held for ransom. There have been  instances of Somali pirates but they are not isolated to the geographic area alone . While the political upheaval in Somalia does provide an ideal, lawless hideout for pirates, the fact is pirates are often found in many places around the globe. Piracy in the Strait of Malacca has historically been an unresolved threat to ship owners and the mariners who ply the 900 km-long (550 miles) sea lane. But presently the area of  concern is Somalia.Due to the crisis in Bolivarian Venezuela, issues of piracy returned to the Caribbean in the 2010s, with the increase of pirates being compared to piracy off the coast of Somalia due to the similar socioeconomic origins. By 2018 as Venezuelans became more desperate, fears arose that Venezuelan pirates would spread throughout Caribbean waters.

The Maersk Alabama hijacking led to a series of maritime events that began on 8 April 2009, when four pirates in the Indian Ocean seized the cargo ship Maersk Alabama at a distance of 240 nautical miles (440 km; 280 mi) southeast of Eyl, Somalia. The siege ended after a rescue effort by the United States Navy on 12 April.

The incident was the first successful pirate seizure of a ship registered under the American flag since the early 19th century. Many news reports cited the last pirate seizure as being during the Second Barbary War in 1815, although other incidents are believed to have occurred until at least 1822. 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.At the time of the hijacking, Maersk Alabama was owned by the Danish shipping company Maersk Line. The ship has since been acquired by Element Shipmanagement SA and has been renamed MV Tygra. As of 2021, the ship is still in active service.

The story of the incident was reported by Captain Richard Phillips, who had been master of the vessel at the time of the incident, in the 2010 book A Captain's Duty, which he co-wrote with Stephan Talty. The book was later adapted as the American 2013 film Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks. 

On Sunday, 12 April, United States Navy SEAL snipers of Red Squadron, Naval Special Warfare Development Group armed with semi-automatic rifles engaged and killed the three pirates on the lifeboat. Captain Phillips was rescued uninjured.Commander Castellano, with prior authorization from higher authority, ordered the action after determining Phillips's life was in immediate danger, citing reports that a pirate was pointing an AK-47 rifle at Phillips's back. Snipers fired multiple shots from Bainbridge's fantail, killing the three pirates with bullets to the head.  It was a successful operation by US Navy Seals who   parachuted into the water near Halyburton, which later joined with Bainbridge. At the time, Bainbridge had the lifeboat under tow, approximately 25 to 30 yards (23 to 27 m) astern.  One of them was captured alive - Abduwali Muse, aboard Bainbridge and negotiating for Phillips's release, remained in custody.

Muse, the surviving pirate, was held USS Boxer's afloat brig and was eventually flown to the United States to stand trial. Prosecutors brought charges in a federal courtroom in New York City that included piracy, conspiracy to seize a ship by force, and conspiracy to commit hostage-taking.Muse's lawyers asked that he be tried as a juvenile, alleging that he was either 15 or 16 years old at the time of the hostage-taking, but the court ruled that Muse was not a juvenile and would be tried as an adult.  He received a prison sentence of 33 years and 9 months. 

Barkhad Abdi  is a Somali–American actor and director. He made his acting debut as Somali pirate Abduwali Muse in the biographical drama film Captain Phillips (2013), which earned him a British Academy Film Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, along with Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations. Captain Phillips is a 2013 American biographical action thriller film directed by Paul Greengrass based on Maersk Alabama hijacking, the film tells the story of the eponymous Captain Richard Phillips, a merchant mariner who was taken hostage by Somali pirates. It stars Tom Hanks as Phillips, alongside Barkhad Abdi as pirate leader Abduwali Muse.The screenplay was based on Phillips's 2010 book A Captain's Duty. 

Richard Phillips takes command of MV Maersk Alabama, an unarmed container vessel from the Port of Salalah in Oman, with orders to sail through the Guardafui Channel to Mombasa, Kenya. Wary of pirate activity off the coast of the Horn of Africa, he and First Officer Shane Murphy order strict security precautions on the vessel and carry out practice drills. During a drill, the vessel is chased by Somali pirates in two skiffs, and Phillips calls for help. Knowing that the pirates are listening to radio traffic, he pretends to call a warship, requesting immediate air support. One skiff turns around in response, and the other – crewed by four heavily armed pirates led by Abduwali Muse – loses engine power trying to steer through Maersk Alabama's wake.

Sony Pictures optioned the film rights shortly after the publication of Richard Phillips's memoir A Captain's Duty in 2010. In March 2011, actor Tom Hanks attached himself to the project after reading a draft of the screenplay by Billy Ray.  Producers visited the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum to see the bullet-scarred, five-ton fiberglass lifeboat aboard which the pirates held Capt. Phillips hostage so that they could accurately re-create the boat and interiors for the set.The film score to Captain Phillips was composed by Henry Jackman.

Interesting !


With regards – S. Sampathkumar
25th Dec 2021.
Photos from; Maersk Alabama from twitter page of @Captsingh 

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