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USS Bainbridge rushing to save US merchant ship from pirates

By Adriana Stuijt     Apr 8, 2009 in Business
the USS Bainbridge is rushing to rescue the captain of the Maersk Alabama, a US merchant marine cargo ship with 20 US citizens on board. He's held hostage by Somalian pirates on a lifeboat near the ship after the crew fought back and captured one pirate.
Now there's a standoff: three of the four pirates escaped, taking the captain of the ship with them as a hostage. They are now near the ship in a lifeboat, while the crew is trying to negotiate to keep the pirates busy while they are waiting for the arrival of the US Navy ship, still steaming full speed towards them.
Pentagon officials say the U.S. Navy destroyer Bainbridge is headed to the area and should arrive around midnight.
This is ironic:
The US Navy destroyer is named after commodore William Bainbridge, who fought 'Barbary Pirates during his amazg career and was most notable for his victory over HMS Java during the War of 1812.
Bainbridge Island near Seattle is named after him. see
Maersk Shipping said on their website and in emails to me that their ship carried 400 twenty-foot containers of desperately needed food-aid for the World Food Programme, amongst others, and was headed for Kenya when it was seized at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning.
A Maersk shipping spokesman said however that the crew of the Maersk Alabama fought back and that the crew now is back in control of the ship. "The armed hijackers who boarded this ship earlier today have departed, however they are currently holding one member of the ship's crew as a hostage."
" The other members of the crew are safe and no injuries have been reported. We are working closely with the U.S. military and other government agencies to continue to respond to this situation as it develops further and will provide additional information as we are able. see
However, CNN reports that the captain of the ship Richard Phillips, is being held captive by the pirates in a life boat near the merchant ship. They are 'trying to negotiate while waiting for the arrival of a warship within three hours.' This claim was made in an interview by second mate Ken Quinn by CNN.
AP also quoted Capt. Joseph Murphy, an instructor at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, as saying that he was called by the US Department of Defense and was told that the crew, including his son Shane, the second in command, 'had regained control.' The top two commanders of the ship graduated from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, the Cape Cod Times reported Wednesday. Andrea Phillips, the wife of Capt. Richard Phillips of Underhill, Vermont., was quoted by this newspayer as saying that 'her husband has sailed in those waters for quite some time" and a hijacking was perhaps "inevitable."
Joseph Murphy, a professor at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, said his son was a 2001 graduate who recently talked to a class about the dangers of piracy.
John Reinhart, president and CEO of the ship’s owner, Maersk Line Ltd., said his company is contacting the crew’s family members. " The Maersk Alabama’s crewmembers were trained to deal with pirate attacks," Reinhart said.
Unnamed Pentagon officials were also quoted by American Forces Press Service journalist Gerry J Gilmore as saying that " there were four would-be hijackers, at least one of whom was captured."
see
3,5-million Kenyans are waiting for this food:
The World Food Programme. only this month, had launched an urgent feeding programme feeding 3,5-million desperately poor and displaced people in Kenya. This was needed after local corn prices soared by 130% due to massive shortages after the ethnic-clashes in 2008, when hundreds of thousands of eople were forced to flee from their homes, including many farmers. see
Norfolk, Virginia based:
Its twenty-crew members, all United States citizens, are based in the home-port of Norfolk, Virginia, United States. It is the first time that a US-flagged ship has been hijacked by Somalian pirates.
The company also confirms that the ship was attacked by pirates at around 05.00 UTC and 'presumed hijacked'. It is owned and operated by Maersk Line, Limited in the United States.
"The vessel is deployed in Maersk Line's East Africa service network and was enroute to Mombasa, when it was attacked approximately 500 kilometres of the Somalia coast.
"Our initial concern is to ensure proper support of the crew and assistance to their families." see
The ship, built in 1998, has a service speed of about 18 knots, and is 25 meters long. It was bult in Taiwan.Its plies the rotation route between Salalah, Djibouti and Mombasa.
The company said that 'in the East Africa trades, Maersk Line transports aid cargo such as vegetable oil, bulgur and general cargo (such as electronics, textiles, cars, etc.).
Maersk Line has four services to/from East Africa, connecting to Maersk Line’s global network via Salalah, Oman. Maersk Line has been present in East Africa in more than 20 years. see
US Navy spokeswoman Jane Campbell was also quoted by VOA as saying that the ship was seized early Wednesday about 450 kilometers southeast of Eyl, a town in the northern Puntland region of Somalia.
It was the sixth vessel seized in the region within a week. VOA reports. The incident marks the first time an American-flagged ship has been hijacked by the pirates operating in the Gulf of Aden, the VOA report states.
Pirates venturing farther out to sea...
The United States and other nations deployed warships near Somalia late last year in an effort to stop pirates from seizing ships, but 'pirates appear to be venturing further out to sea to avoid the naval patrols.'
Bahrain-based U.S. Navy spokesman Nate Christensen was quoted as saying that the closest ship was more than 550 kilometers away.
Last week, pirates also seized five ships including a British bulk carrier, the Malaspina Castle, in the Gulf of Aden; a Taiwanese fishing vessel, the MV Winfar 161, near the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean; a Yemeni tug boat with seven crew members; a French luxury yacht and a German vessel with 24 crew members.
Somali pirates have seized more than 50 ships over the past 18 months. It is estimated that they have already earned more than 6-million US dollars in these piracy operations. Many shipping companies have started rerouting their cargo and passenger cruise ships away from the Suez canal, taking the longer route around the Cape of Good Hope instead.
Despite the massive presence of an international navy force throughout this region, these pirates, who operate from bases on Somalia's east coast, are currently holding more than a dozen ships and their crews. These ships can be seen clearly on satellite imagines. Yet there seems to be a reluctance among military forces to attack the pirate bases except on one occasion by France, when it released a French yacht crew from captivity late last year.
Be vigilant -- shipping alert issued:
Today, the Combined Maritime Forces patrolling the East-African coastline also issued an updated Special Maritime Advisory message - a merchant shipping alert.
The message highlights several recent attacks that occurred hundreds of miles off the Somali coast, and states that merchant mariners should be increasingly vigilant when operating in those waters.
“We continue to highlight the importance of preparation by the merchant mariners and the maritime industry in this message,” said Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, the Commander of the Combined Maritime Forces.
Piracy starts ashore...
“We synchronize the efforts of the naval forces deployed to the region. However as we have often stated, international naval forces alone will not be able to solve the problem of piracy at sea. Piracy is a problem that starts ashore.”
"While the majority of attacks during 2008 and early 2009 took place in the Gulf of Aden, these recent attacks off the eastern coast of Somalia are not unprecedented. An attack on the large crude tanker Sirius Star in November 2008 occurred more than 450 nautical miles off the southeast coast of Somalia,' the statement from the US Navy said.
1.1-million square miles to patrol...
The notice also reiterates the fact that despite increased naval presence in the region, ships and aircraft are unlikely to be close enough to provide support to vessels under attack.
"The scope and magnitude of problem can not be understated....The area involved off the coast of Somalia and Kenya as well as the Gulf of Aden equals more than 1.1 million square miles (2.5 million square kilometers), roughly four times the size of Texas or the size of the Mediterranean and Red Seas combined.
"The length of the Somali coastline is roughly the same length as the entire Eastern Seaboard of the United States.
"Ships and aircraft of Combined Task Force 151, the European Union, NATO and a number of international navies continue to patrol the region, but the closest military ship could be days away from a merchant vessel sailing hundreds of miles off the coast. While maritime patrol aircraft from a number of nations fly counter-piracy missions, the same aircraft are also providing critical support to Coalition forces operating throughout the region.
"Despite the recent successful attacks, merchant mariners have proven successes as first line defenders against pirates. A number of merchant vessels have employed evasive maneuvering and other defensive measures to protect their ships and their cargoes.
Successes:
"Recent examples of proactive measures include the crew of Panamanian-flagged motor vessel Protector evasively out-maneuvering pirates and repelling their would-be attackers with fire hoses; the crew of Motor Vessel Sea Green firing several warning flares at suspected pirates as they approached, successfully warding off an attack; and the merchant mariners aboard Motor Vessel Africa Star rigging barbed wire along the sides of the ship to prevent pirates from boarding. In all three examples, merchant mariners were able to prevent the theft of their vessels via methods they undertook to secure their ships and protect their crews.
"CTF 151 is a multinational task force that conducts counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment. "
see
It was also found that ships with speeds which could exceed 20 knots could usually outrun the pirates' rubber-ducks.
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