The Story of Maersk Alabama Container Vessel

MV Maersk Alabama is a container ship which was put into operation for the very first time in 1998 under the Danish registry and with the christened title of Alva Maersk. Later, the vessel’s name was re-christened to its present name, and its registration was transferred to the United States of America.

Contemporarily, the cargo ship MV Maersk, Alabama, is under the operation of the conglomerate Waterman Steamship, under the ownership of the Maersk Shipping Company, an ancillary corporation of the shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk.

Maersk Alabama: Technical Specifications 

The Maersk Alabama was built in the Taiwanese shipbuilding yard of the China Shipbuilding Conglomerate. The vessel measures almost 510 feet with a beam of over 80 feet. Alabama has a gross tonnage of around 14,000 tonnes and a Dead-weight Tonnage (DWT) of over 15,000 tonnes, with speeds extending over 18 knots. A crew of 21 members man the vessel while it’s operated in its routine marine voyaging channels.

Maersk Alabama
Image for representation purposes on.ly

Maersk Line Ship: Causes of Infamy

Although an exemplary vessel amongst its class, this Maersk vessel has gained extreme notoriety in the past few years. The ship plies mainly between the east-African water routes passing through countries like Kenya and the Republic of Djibouti. Thought first glance, the way seems pretty easy to traverse, but the presence of buccaneers and pirates near the water route of Somalia has added to the threat of international shipping in these geographic parts.

MV Maersk Alabama has fallen prey to these Somali pirates almost five times in the past two years. Though four times, buccaneers have been successfully prevented from taking hostage of the vessel and its crew members, there was a considerable risk to life. Once in 2009, the vessel’s captain, Richard Phillips, was captured by the hijackers while navigating at a distance of about 450 kilometres from the coast of Somalia. Captain Phillips was taken to a separate lifeboat and demanded a ransom of 2 million dollars.

Maersk Alabama Hijacking and Follow-through

The Maersk Alabama hijacking became an intense topic of debate and discussion, considering that Alabama was the very first United States vessel to be held captive by Somali buccaneers. The stand-off between the United States and the pirates continued. When negotiations failed, the United States navy began a rescue effort by deploying Destroyer USS Bainbridge marine vessel.

In April in the year 2009, despite several security protocols and guidelines provided to the MV Alabama about the prevailing danger in and around the Somali waters, there was a breach when a group of four buccaneers entered Maersk Alabama when it was 240 nautical miles southeast of Somalia port city of Eyl. They over-mastered the crew members while also taking the vessel’s captain as surety for ransom.

The ship had a 20-member crew and was en route to Mombasa in Kenya. It was loaded with 17,000 metric tons of cargo, and 5000 tonnes of it were relief goods for Somalia, Kenya and Uganda. Per Chief Engineer Mike Perry, the engineers sunk the pirate speedboat after the pirates boarded their vessel by swinging the rudder of their ship towards the smaller boat.

At the time of the incident, all other crew members locked themselves in the engine room. The captain and two members stayed on the bridge. The engineer took control of the vessel from below. Hence, the bridge controls became useless.

The rescue operation concluded in an overwhelming success when navy seal snipers led by Commander Frank Castellano successfully shot dead three of the four buccaneers and freed the captive skipper of the MV Maersk, Alabama. One of the pirates, Abduwali Muse, surrendered and was sentenced to 33 years in prison.

Following this pirating act, in the same year, in November, yet another hijacking act was thwarted by the alertness of the sentries posted aboard the Maersk line ship. Following the attacking threat in 2009, an attempt was made to seize the Maersk vessel in the September of 2010, the failure of which prompted two more such – albeit failed – taking attempts in March and May last year.

Litigation against the Maersk Shipping Line

In April this year, the crew members of the Maersk vessel filed a petition with a county court seeking financial reparation for the piracy act carried out on the ship. The litigators have complained against both the vessel owners – the Moller-Maersk shipping line and its subsidiary Maersk Shipping Company – and the operators. The ship’s captain isn’t named in the litigation as causation is also inferred to be a part of the litigators’ demand for financial compensation of US$ half a billion.

MV Maersk Alabama and Movies

Based on the captain’s penning of his harrowing experience as a pirate captive, a movie is scheduled to be in the offing. Reputed and noteworthy actor Tom Hanks is reported to be a part of the movie, directed by yet another stellar Hollywood director of the ‘The Bourne Series’ fame.

Through the cinemascope rendering of the vessel, people worldwide can understand what mariners and seafarers passing through the volatile Somali coast undergo. Even though the maritime domain faces such threats almost daily, it’s perhaps testimony to the professionals’ strength and fortitude that they undertake to carry out necessary marine operations with the least possible fuss.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Maersk, Alabama, still in service?

When hijacked, it was owned by the Danish Shipping Company Maersk Line. However, after that, it was acquired by Element Shipmanagement SA of Greece and was renamed MV Tygra. The ship is still operational.

2. Where is the Maersk Alabama lifeboat now?

The Maersk Alabama lifeboat on which Captain Phillips was kept hostage by Somali pirates in 2009 is displayed at the National Navy SEAL Museum.

3. Who built the ship, and what are its physical dimensions?

The Maersk Alabama was built in the Taiwanese shipbuilding yard of the China Shipbuilding Conglomerate. The vessel measures almost 510 feet with a beam of over 80 feet. Alabama has a gross tonnage of around 14,000 tonnes and a Dead-weight Tonnage of about 15,000.

4. Why did the Maersk Alabama hijacking become an intense topic of debate and discussion?

The Maersk Alabama hijacking became an intense topic of debate and discussion, considering that Alabama was the first United States vessel flying the American Flag to be held captive by Somali pirates.

5. Did Captain Phillips get a settlement?

Although he was unharmed and proclaimed a hero by many, the crew of his vessel said that he failed to heed warnings and set a course that put them all in danger. In 2009, they sued the shipowner Maersk Line, and the suit was later settled for an undisclosed amount of money.

You might also like to read-

 

2 Comments

  1. The “namers” liked Lynrd Skynrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama ” song. Thus it became a tribute to the band.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *