Pirates Attack American Vessel  

I've heard of all sorts of vessels being attacked by pirates of late, from cruise ships to oil tankers, but they rarely fly a US flag. This ship, carrying FOOD AID was not so lucky, nor were members of the American crew, from CNN.

The Maersk Alabama was on its way to Mombasa, Kenya, with a cargo of food aid when it was attacked Wednesday. It was the first time in recent history that pirates had targeted an American ship.

The ship was hijacked some 350 miles off Somalia's coast, a distance that used to be considered safe for ships navigating in the pirate-infested waters. There were 21 American crew members, including the captain, on board at the time.

the AFL-CIO Now Blog further noted:

Twelve members of the 20-person crew are members of the Seafarers (SIU) and the ship’s officers are members of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA) and Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P).

When the pirates, armed with AK-47s, boarded the 730-foot vessel, the unarmed crew locked themselves in an area of the ship that contains the ship’s steering gear, second officer Ken Quinn told CNN in a ship-to-shore phone call.

He said the crew had captured one of the pirates and, in negotiations with remaining pirates, agreed to exchange him for the release of the ship’s captain. But after the captured Somali was released, the pirates continued to hold the captain as of 4 p.m. EDT

The unarmed union crew were able to secure the ship, without injury. I think that is absolutely amazing. They were unarmed and attempted to negotiate the return of the captain in exchange for a pirate they had captured. But it also appears, they received training for this sort of situation:

The SIU members aboard the Maersk Alabama have undergone safety training at the union-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, which is located in Piney Point, Md.

Among the school’s course offerings are an anti-terrorism briefing that is given to every student; security awareness; vessel security officer; basic and advanced fire fighting; chemical, biological and radiological defense; vessel familiarization; small-arms training; damage control, and dozens more classes.

Our thoughts, prayers and energy go out to Captain Richard Phillips and his family. At this time, He remains a captive of the pirates who attacked the ship, even after a daring attempted escape on his part.

For further updates on the Maersk Alabama, please head over to Seafarers International Union site.

Actually this is more of a suggestion. I got a Tweet about crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing to prevent pirate attacks by better connecting those in need of information with those possessing information.

Following the recent attack we’ve heard from dozens of analysts, bloggers and pundits who each respond with different ideas on how to address the issue. With recommendations including aggressive action against the pirates, exclusion zones and “sons of Iraq” models, a return to convoys, and more, we haven’t seen much discussion around the “information” problem. And yet, information could be a key enabler of our counter-piracy strategy. While criminals and pirates have effectively used a mix of low-tech and high-tech solutions to collaborate and target shipping, the maritime and national security communities have largely ignored their information strengths. Given the amount of data available and the large community of interest, we should launch a program to expose our information and develop a crowdsourced counter-piracy campaign.

Crowdsourcing conforms to existing US strategy and policy - it’s time we take action and start working together.

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