MV Maersk Alabama (formerly Alva Maersk) is a container ship owned by Maersk Line Limited and operated by Waterman Steamship Corporation.
It has a light-blue hull and a beige superstructure like all Maersk vessels, regardless of their flag of registry. 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.
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 600 nmi (1,100 km) 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. With a crew of 20, the ship was en route to Mombasa, Kenya. 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.
On April 8, the destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG-96) and the frigate USS Halyburton (FFG-40) were dispatched to the Gulf of Aden in response to a hostage situation, and reached Maersk Alabama early on April 9. 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. 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. The FBI secured the ship as a crime scene. 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. As the pirates were boarding the ship, the crew members locked themselves in the engine room while the captain and two other crew members remained on the bridge. The engineers then took 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, Abduhl Wal-i-Musi, and free one of the hostages, Abu Thair Mohd Zahid 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, for Captain Phillips. The captured pirate was released but the pirates refused to release Phillips. After running out of fuel in the ship's main overboard boat, they transferred and left in the ship's covered lifeboat, taking Phillips with them. The lifeboat carried ten days of food rations, water and basic survival supplies.
On April 9, a standoff began between USS Bainbridge and the pirates in the Maersk Alabama's lifeboat, where they continued to hold Captain Phillips hostage. On Sunday, April 12, Phillips was rescued in good condition. 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. Navy SEAL snipers on Bainbridge's fantailopened fire, killing the three pirates remaining in the lifeboat, including Ali Aden Elmi. 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. He later pled guilty, and was sentenced to more than 33 years in prison.
November 2009 pirate attack
At 6:30 am on November 18, 2009, the Maersk Alabama was reportedly sailing some 350 nautical miles (650 km) east of Somalia when it was fired upon by four pirates wielding automatic weapons and traveling in a skiff. The assault failed after guards on the ship responded with small arms fire and acoustical weapons. Afterward, a Djibouti-based patrol plane flew to the scene and an EU ship searched the area.
September 2010 Suspicious Approach of Pirate Skiff
29 September 2010, the vessel was targeted by Somali pirates wielding AK-47's. The security force on board the Maersk Alabama repelled a skiff with 5 pirates approximately 950 mi east of Somalia. The incident went unnoticed in the press until November 2010 when CNN reported it.
March 2011 attempted hijacking
8 March 2011, the vessel was again targeted by Somali pirates. A security force on board the Maersk Alabama fired warning shots and turned the suspects away.
May 2011 Attempted Hijacking
Midnight, 14 May 2011, while transiting westbound in the international recognized corridor, Maersk Alabama was approached by a skiff of five pirates on the starboard stern. After turning to follow the ship's wake, the skiff quickly closed in to 30 metres (98 ft), preparing to board via a hook ladder, whereupon the embarked security team fired two shots into the skiff. The skiff quickly broke off and radar contact was lost after 10 minutes.
The film "Captain Phillips" is an upcoming film directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Tom Hanks which is a biopic of Captain Richard Phillips who was taken hostage by Somali Pirates during the Maersk Alabama hijacking in 2009. It is scheduled to be released on October 11, 2013.