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MV Maersk Alabama
Container ship MV Maersk Alabama
Maersk Alabama leaves Mombasa, Kenya, April 21, 2009.
Career Flag of the United States
Name: Alva Maersk (1998–2004)
Maersk Alabama (from 2004)[1]
Owner: A. P. Moller-Maersk Group
Operator: Maersk Line, Limited
Port of registry: Denmark Denmark (1998-2004)
United States Norfolk, Virginia, U.S. (since 2004)[2]
Builder: China Shipbuilding Corporation[3] Keelung, Taiwan[1]
Yard number: 676[3]
Completed: 1998[3]
Homeport: Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
Identification: IMO number: 9164263[3]
Status: In active service
General characteristics
Type: Container ship
Tonnage: 17,375 DWT
14,120 [1]
Length: 155 m (508 ft 6 in) LOA[1]
145.80 metres (478 ft 4 in) LBP[1]
Beam: 25.30 m (83 ft 0 in)[1]
Propulsion: 1 diesel engine[1]
Speed: In excess of 18 knots (33 km/h)[2]
Capacity: 1,092 TEU[3]
Crew: 21[4]

MV Maersk Alabama (formerly Alva Maersk) is a container ship owned by Maersk Line Limited and operated by Waterman Steamship Corporation.[5]

It has a light-blue hull and a beige superstructure like all Maersk vessels, regardless of their flag of registry.[6] 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.[7]


Alva Maersk was built by China Shipbuilding Corporation, Keelung, Taiwan at yard number 676 and launched in 1998.[8] As Alva Maersk, she was flagged to Denmark. In 2004, Alva Maersk was renamed Maersk Alabama[1] and reflagged to the United States, with its parent company being homeported in Norfolk, Virginia.[2] She has been involved in two incidents, and remains in active service on Maersk Line's East Africa 4 service. Her regular route is from Mombasa, Kenya to Salalah, Oman, to Djibouti, and then returning to Mombasa.[2]

2004 detentionEdit

In 2004, the ship was detained in Kuwait after becoming the victim of an apparent fraud scheme. According to papers filed by the A. P. Moller-Maersk Group with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in 2005, Kuwait-based expatriates scammed the Group out of millions of dollars. Low-value goods were allegedly shipped under the guise of fraudulent, high-value bills of lading. Maersk was subsequently sued for losing goods that had never existed. Those allegedly behind the scheme were able to detain Alva Maersk in Kuwait as collateral. The ship was released in April 2004 after the A. P. Moller-Maersk Group was forced to put up $1.86 million as collateral.[9]

April 2009 attempted pirate seizureEdit

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.[10] 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.[4][11]

Surveillance photo of Maersk Alabama lifeboat, hijacked by pirates 090409-N-0000X-926

The 28 foot lifeboat where Captain Richard Phillips and the four Somali pirates were held up as seen from a US Navy Scan Eagle UAV.

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.[12] As the pirates were boarding the ship, the crew members locked themselves in the engine room[13] while the captain and two other crew members remained on the bridge.[citation needed] The engineers then took control of the ship from down below, rendering the bridge controls useless.[citation needed] The pirates were thus unable to control the ship. The crew later used "brute force" to overpower one of the pirates,[13] Abduwali Muse, and free one of the hostages, Abu Thair Mohd Zahid Reza.[citation needed] Frustrated, the pirates decided to leave the ship, and took Phillips with them to a lifeboat as their bargaining chip.[citation needed] The crew attempted to exchange this captured pirate, whom they had kept tied up for twelve hours,[14] for Captain Phillips. The captured pirate was released but the pirates refused to release Phillips.[15] After running out of fuel in the ship's man 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.[15]

On April 8, the destroyer USS Bainbridge and the frigate USS Halyburton were dispatched to the Gulf of Aden in response to a hostage situation, and reached Maersk Alabama early on April 9.[16] 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.[13] 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.[16] The FBI secured the ship as a crime scene.[17]

On April 9, a standoff began between the Bainbridge and the pirates in the Maersk Alabama's lifeboat, where they continued to hold Captain Phillips hostage.[18][19] Three days later, on Sunday, April 12, Navy marksmen opened fire and killed the three pirates on the lifeboat, and Phillips was rescued in good condition.[20][21] The Bainbridge captain Commander Frank Castellano, with prior authorization from U.S. President Barack Obama, ordered the action after determining that Phillips' life was in immediate danger, based on reports that a pirate was pointing an AK-47 assault rifle at his back.[22][23][24] Navy SEAL snipers on Bainbridge's fantail opened fire, killing the three pirates with bullets to the head,[25] one of whom was named Ali Aden Elmi, another whose last name was Hamac, and the third unidentified.[26] A fourth pirate, Abduwali Muse, aboard the Bainbridge and negotiating for Phillips release while being treated for an injury sustained in the takeover of Maersk Alabama, surrendered and was taken into custody.[20][21] Muse's parents asked that he be pardoned because he was either 15 or 16 years old at the time of the incident, but at court it was ruled that he was not a juvenile and would be tried as an adult.[26] He later pled guilty to piracy charges and was sentenced to more than 33 years in prison.[26][27]

Maersk Alabama Lifeboat for Navy SEAL Rescue of Captain Phillips

The Maersk Alabama lifeboat on which Captain Phillips was held hostage by Somalian pirates in 2009 is on display at the National Navy SEAL Museum

The actual lifeboat in which Captain Phillips was held hostage is now on display at the National Navy SEAL Museum in Ft. Pierce, FL.[28] An example of the Scan Eagle used to monitor the crisis is also on display.[29]

November 2009 pirate attackEdit

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.[7][30][31] The assault failed after guards on the ship responded with small arms fire and acoustical weapons.[32] Afterward, a Djibouti-based patrol plane flew to the scene and an EU ship searched the area.[33]

September 2010 Suspicious Approach of Pirate SkiffEdit

29 September 2010, the vessel was targeted by Somali pirates wielding AK-47s. 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.[34]

March 2011 attempted hijackingEdit

8 March 2011, the vessel was again targeted by Somali pirates.[35] A security force on board the Maersk Alabama fired warning shots and turned the suspects away.[36]

May 2011 attempted hijackingEdit

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.[37]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 "9164263". Miramar Ship Index. Retrieved April 8, 2009.  (subscription required)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Maersk Alabama fact sheet". Maersk Press Release. Retrieved April 10, 2009. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "Maersk Alabama". Container-Info. Retrieved April 8, 2009. [dead link]
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Somali pirates hijack Danish ship". BBC news. 2009-04-08. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  5. "High Drama, High Stakes, High Seas – The Maersk Alabama Pirate Attack". SeaFever. April 8, 2009. 
  6. "Shipping Companies (Denmark)". CRW Flags' Online Catalog. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Cowell, Alan (November 18, 2009). "Pirates Attack Maersk Alabama Again". The New York Times. Retrieved November 18, 2009. 
  8. "Lawfare - Maersk Alabama a crime scene". EagleSpeak. April 11, 2009. 
  9. "Maersk A-Class". Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  10. Sanders, Edmund; Barnes, Julian E. (April 9, 2009). "Somalia pirates hold U.S. captain". Los Angeles Times.,0,4104857.story. Retrieved April 12, 2009. 
  11. "Ship carrying 20 Americans believed hijacked off Somalia". CNN. 2009-04-09. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  12. "Crewman's e-mail gives harrowing details of hijacking". CNN. April 20, 2009. Retrieved 6 July 2010. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 "American Captain 'Unharmed' in Lifeboat - ABC News". 2009-04-09. Retrieved 2012-06-19. 
  14. "Africa | FBI in hostage talks with Somalis". BBC News. 2009-04-09. Retrieved 2009-04-09. "According to second mate Ken Quinn, the crew managed to capture one of the pirates and keep him tied up for 12 hours" 
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Cargo ship heads for Kenya". CNN. 2009-04-08. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 "U.S. Warship Shadows Somali Pirates With Hostage". April 9, 2009. Archived from the original on April 11, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2009. [dead link]
  17. "WRAPUP 10-U.S. Navy rescues captain, kills Somali pirates". Reuters. April 12, 2009. 
  18. Houreld, Katharine; Muhumed, Malkhadir M. (April 10, 2009). "Pirates recapture US hostage after escape attempt". Retrieved April 12, 2009. 
  19. "Pirates Hold American Captain Hostage; Negotiations Continue for Release". The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. April 9, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2009. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 Verjee, Zain; Starr, Barbara (April 12, 2009). "Captain jumps overboard, SEALs shoot pirates, official says". CNN. Retrieved April 12, 2009. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 "US captain held by pirates freed". BBC News. April 12, 2009. Retrieved April 14, 2009. 
  22. "Official: US sea captain faced imminent danger". April 12, 2009. Archived from the original on April 15, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2009. 
  23. Mikkelsen, Randall (April 12, 2009). "US acted after pirates aimed at ship captain". Reuters. Archived from the original on April 14, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2009. 
  24. "US captain rescued from pirates". BBC News. April 13, 2009. Retrieved April 13, 2009. 
  25. Hostage captain rescued; Navy snipers kill 3 pirates CNN, April 12, 2009
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Hassan, Abdiqani (2009-04-22). "Somali Pirate Families Ask for U.S. Pardon". Reuters. Retrieved 22 April 2009. 
  27. "Somali pirate sentenced to 33 years in US prison". 16 February 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  28. The actual lifeboat from Maersk Alabama is now at the SEAL Museum:
  30. "Maersk Alabama thwarts Somali pirate attack". USA Today. 2009-11-18. Retrieved 2010-04-07. 
  31. Childress, Sarah (November 18, 2009). "Maersk Alabama Evades Second Pirate Attack". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 18, 2009. 
  32. "U.S. ship thwarts second pirate attack". CNN. November 18, 2009. Retrieved November 18, 2009. 
  33. "Pirates strike same US ship again". BBC News. November 18, 2009. Retrieved November 18, 2009. 
  34. Fitzpatrick, David (22 November 2010). "Pirates set sights on Maersk Alabama again, maritime group says". CNN. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  35. "Maersk Alabama targeted again by Somali pirates, CNN reports". 9 March 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2011. 
  36. "Pirates target the Maersk Alabama again". CNN. 9 March 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2011. 

External linksEdit

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