U.S. seafarers’ unions praise Maersk Alabama crew and owner

The following is the text of a press release issued by the International Transport Workers Federation:


(NEW YORK) — Seafarers’ unions in the US have extolled the bravery and commitment of the crew on board the Maersk Alabama, among the latest vessels to fall victim to piracy. The vessel was attacked off the coast of Somalia on 8 April and its captain held hostage for five days.

In a joint statement, the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots, the Seafarers’ International Union and the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association – all three ITF affiliates – praised the crew onboard. They fought off the pirates, capturing one of them; Captain Richard Phillips agreed to be taken hostage in return for the crew’s freedom; they were released on 8 April. Captain Phillips, meanwhile, was rescued from the lifeboat on which he had been held captive on 12 April by the US Navy; three of the pirates lost their lives during the rescue.

The unions said: “We are extremely proud of Captain Phillips and the entire American crew who were working aboard the Maersk Alabama for their response when these pirates – these international criminals – attempted to seize control of an American ship. Their performance under great pressure when facing the ultimate threat to their own personal safety exemplifies the valor and devotion to duty that American merchant mariners have demonstrated throughout our nation’s history.”

The unions also expressed their appreciation to those involved in rescuing Captain Richard Phillips and ending the act of piracy including President Barack Obama for his administration’s “deliberate and effective handling of this entire situation.” In addition, they were grateful to Maersk chief executive officer John Reinhart and president of the vessel’s operators Waterman Steamship Corporation/International Shipholding Corporation Eric L Johnsen.

“Both Maersk and Waterman went beyond what was expected of them in the treatment of our brothers and their concerned families,†said David Heindel, secretary treasurer of the Seafarers’ International Union. “The companies updated us on the status of the vessel and the welfare of the crew. We are proud of our seafarers, the companies and of course our service men and women for a job well done but it is not over – entirely. Over 200 seafarers who continue to be held against their will are not as fortunate. All of us in maritime must use whatever influence we have to insist that our governments put an end to this scourge.â€

A second US vessel, the Liberty Sun, was attacked on 15 April off the coast of Somalia; the pirates, however, failed to board the ship.

By Professional Mariner Staff