Maersk Alabama Crew Repels Suspected Pirate Attack

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Schaeffer, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command

MANAMA, Bahrain, Nov. 18, 2009 – The U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama’s security team repelled an attack from suspected pirates this morning 560 nautical miles off the northeastern coast of Somalia, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command officials reported.

Four suspected pirates in a skiff came within 300 yards of the Maersk Alabama and used small-arms weapons in an attempt to board the ship.

The ship’s security team responded with evasive maneuvers, long-range acoustic devices and small-arms fire, causing the suspected pirates to break off their attack. The acoustic devices emit a high-pitched sound that can be painful to human ears.

“Due to Maersk Alabama following maritime industry’s best [anti-piracy] practices such as embarking security teams, the ship was able to prevent being successfully attacked by pirates,” said Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and U.S. 5th Fleet. “This is a great example of how merchant mariners can take proactive action to prevent being attacked, and why we recommend that ships follow industry best practices if they’re in high-risk areas.”

No injuries or damage were reported aboard the ship, which is proceeding to its destination of Mombasa, Kenya.

Suspected Somali pirates briefly seized the Maersk Alabama off the coast of Somalia on April 8 and held the ship’s skipper, Capt. Richard Phillips, hostage for five days on a skiff. U.S. naval forces rescued Phillips on April 12, killing three suspected pirates and taking one into custody.

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