When the Maersk Alabama was hijacked 3 years ago you would have expected those aboard to have feared the worst and that they would have been grateful to leave the ship alive. However it would appear that surviving the attack by the Somali gang is not enough for some of the crew, who are now set to sue. The attack took place on April 12th 2009 when pirates approached the ship approximately 240 nautical miles from Eyl, on the Somali coastline. The trade vessel was transporting 17,000 tonnes of cargo to Kenya at the time, which is likely to have attracted the pirates. Somali gangs often attack trade vessels as this allows them to generate money in 2 ways, as they steal the cargo aboard and capture the ship in order to later demand ransom payments for the safe return of the boat and the crew.
4 pirates approached the Alabama in a small fishing boat and attempted to board the vessel, however the 20 strong crew had been given anti piracy training in the event of such attacks and began implementing these measures upon the arrival of the gang. Chief Engineer of the vessel, Mike Perry, took decisive action by transporting 14 crew members to a safe room aboard the ship, whilst others fired flares in attempts to alert authorities. Perry, with the assistance of another senior crew member, swung the rudder of the ship in order to dump vast amounts of water on the pirates skiff.
Despite these efforts the pirates were able to board the vessel and Perry took further action, wiping out the engine controls from the bridge and cutting the power so that the ship was plunged into darkness. This meant that the pirates would be unable to take control of the vessel and steer it to the Somali coastline, following this Perry returned to the safe and guarded its entrance with a knife. Upon the expected arrival of the pirates, Perry struggled with the group and managed to capture the leader of the pirate gang. The success of Perry in this situation demonstrates the effectiveness of training crew members in maritime security measures, which allow them to adequately defend themselves from pirates. However during the time that Perry spent guarding the safe room the gang were able to capture the remaining crew members and Captain Phillips, the Alabama's captain. The crew negotiated a swap deal with the gang in which they would trade their captured pirate for the captain and detained crew members. However when the crew released their captive, the pirates failed to keep their end of the bargain and escaped with several members of the Alabama's crew .
The USS Bainbridge was sent to rescue the crew and after a stand off with the pirates, who waited in a lifeboat whilst planning to meet with other pirates who had captured vessels and hostages, the Navy were able to free the crew and capture the pirates. Captain Phillips attempted to escape on several occasions, however each attempt was futile as the pirates began opening fire and he was dragged aboard the lifeboat.
The news of the lawsuit does come as a shock as it would appear that escaping with their lives was not enough for many of the Alabama's crew, with 11 out of the 20 crew members now suing for around $50 million . The crew partially blame their captain for endangering their lives, claiming that he ignored warnings to steer clear of dangerous waters. The lawsuit does not name the captain and the group are suing both Maersk and the Waterman Steamship company who contracted the crew for the job. They are suing the companies for negligence due to the fact that they failed to provide safe working conditions and also for failing to pay crew members with sufficient compensation for the loss of work and injuries sustained during the incident.