FBI to use Maersk Alabama to fight piracy

April 13, 2009 12:00 am

, MOMBASA, Kenya, Apr 13 – The Federal Bureau of Investigation plans to document tactics used by crew members of Maersk Alabama, as a point of reference in dealing with piracy in the Somali waters.
In the new strategy, the crew in the ship that was released last week will assist with vital information on how to deal with the insurgent piracy along the dangerous Coastline.

Mr Gordon Hook, a representative of Maersk Limited who owns the ship told journalists on Monday that the crew members and the released US captain Richard Phillips have crucial information which can be used to fight piracy.

Addressing a press conference for the first time at Mombasa port since the ship docked on Saturday, Mr Hook said the evidence so far gathered was vital in handling piracy in future.
“The crew members have important information that will be crucial in dealing with the menace especially along the dangerous Somali waters,” he said.
"The successful release of Captain Richard Phillips clearly demonstrates that the war against piracy can be won," he said.

FBI and Coast Guard personnel have been on board the vessel that docked at the port of Mombasa on Saturday night gathering all the information about the attack, assessing US security procedures and establishing how crew members overpowered pirates.
However, the technical details of how crew members were able to overpower pirates and take control of the vessel would not be availed to the public.

The ship’s First Mate, Mr Shane Murphy who steered the ship after Richard Phillips got held by pirates, and who appeared emotional appealed to President Barrack Obama to assist end piracy.
The ship was carrying emergency relief to Mombasa, when it was hijacked last week and the relief food was meant for Somalia, Kenya and Uganda.
The hijacking was the sixth vessel seized within a week, a rise that analysts attribute to a new strategy by Somali pirates who are operating far from the warships patrolling the Gulf of Aden.

On Sunday, US President Obama pledged to combat the rise of piracy off the coast of Somalia, as US naval forces rescued American merchant Captain Richard Phillips from his pirate captors.

"We remain resolved to halt the rise of piracy in this region," Obama was quoted by AFP, in his first public statement on the pirate standoff.

"To achieve that goal, we must continue to work with our partners to prevent future attacks, be prepared to interdict acts of piracy and ensure that those who commit acts of piracy are held accountable for their crimes."

Somali pirates are currently holding more than a dozen other vessels, along with more than 200 hostages taken in their hijacking efforts.

Obama was regularly updated on events aboard the Maersk Alabama after pirates hijacked the cargo ship on Wednesday, and on Friday and Saturday he gave US forces authority "to engage in potential emergency actions," an administration official said speaking on condition of anonymity.

"I am very pleased that Captain Phillips has been rescued and is safely on board the USS Boxer," Obama said, referring to the US assault ship where Phillips was flown after the rescue that capped a tense five-day hostage crisis with Somali pirates.

The captain’s safety "has been our principal concern, and I know this is a welcome relief to his family and his crew," the president added.

After the successful rescue, Obama called Phillips and his wife, Andrea, as well as several military officials "to express appreciation for the work of our military personnel," the administration source said.

The US Navy ended a high-seas standoff in an operation that saw snipers shoot and kill three of his four captors aboard a lifeboat from the Maersk Alabama where he was held since their hijacking attempt. The surviving pirate was placed in detention.

The unarmed crew of the Maersk Alabama managed to regain control of the ship, but the pirates captured Phillips and bundled him into the ship’s lifeboat as they escaped.

The pirates had warned against using force to rescue Phillips, and had reportedly demanded two million dollars in ransom for his safe return.

The incident added new urgency to finding a solution to the mounting piracy challenge off the coast of Somalia, ruled by a weak central government unable to stem the rise of lawlessness.

"This could escalate violence in this part of the world," said Navy Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, the commander of US naval forces in the region.

Gortney, who spoke to reporters in Washington via satellite from the Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain, suggested that the ultimate solution to piracy is on land.

"Piracy around the world stems from activity where there is lawlessness, lack of governance, economic instability. And wherever you have that, you’ll have criminal activity at sea," he said.

Gortney said the US Justice Department could take the captured pirate to Kenya — which has signed a deal with Washington to prosecute such criminals — or to the United States.

The Somali coast has seen an up tick of pirate attacks. In the past three weeks, there were 18 or 19 piracy attempts both in the Gulf of Aden and in the Somali Basin, Gortney said.

However since the start of the year, piracy watchdogs had recorded a slump in the number of attacks and their success rate compared to 2008, during which pirates attacked close to 150 ships and harvested a bumper crop of ransom money.


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