Captain Richard Phillips, a former merchant mariner from Vermont, was Captain of the Maersk Alabama when it was hijacked by Somali pirates.
The container ship was 240 nautical miles (440 km; 280 miles) southeast of the Somali port city of Eyl en route to Kenya,
and it’s mission was to deliver large quantities of food to starving Africans.
It was the sixth vessel in a week to be hijacked by pirates who had previously extorted ransoms to the tune of tens of millions of US dollars.
And the goal of the four pirates that boarded the ship was to steal the food that the ship was carrying and then demand ransoms.
Phillips Offered Himself To Save The Crew
In the fine tradition of high-seas heroism, Capt. Richard Phillips traded his safety to save his crew from the pirates controlling his ship.
"He offered himself as the hostage. That is what he would do. It’s just who he is and his response as a captain".
said his sister-in-law, Gina Coggio.
Held In A Small Lifeboat
Phillips was held hostage by the Somali pirates in a small, enclosed lifeboat that was attached to the ship.
And from April 8, 2009 until his dramatic rescue by the United States Navy on April 12, 2009, Phillips was held at gunpoint while being subjected to mental and physical abuse, and his life was continuously threatened.
Phillips was perceived by his captors as a pawn to be used for bargaining with the United States Navy, as they sought a ransom and safe passage to Somalia.
Fortitude And Bravery
It is perhaps difficult to fathom how a seemingly easy-going merchant mariner from Vermont, husband, and father of two children could demonstrate the extremely high level of fortitude Phillips displayed during the incident.
What Were Phillip’s Mental Strengths?
1. Hold Fast. Under incredible pressure, Capt. Phillips held fast and never let go.
2. The Fighting Spirit. Capt. Phillips is more than a flinty New Englander from Vermont, and he reportedly jumped into the ocean and tried to swim to safety at the nearby USS Bainbridge.
3. Realistic Optimism. A positive mental attitude is an incredibly important part of survival, but a naive or foolhardy attitude can be dangerous.
4. The Power of Purpose. From the very start, Phillips was ready to sacrifice himself for his crew and his ship. Many of the world’s most amazing survivors possess a sense of purpose or a calling greater than themselves.
5. The Power of Faith. Faith may be religion-based, or the belief in something greater than oneself. Indeed, Phillips’ first comments reflect what he might have felt when he was captured then later rescued, ‘The real heroes are the Navy the Seals, those who have brought me home’".
The End Of The Crisis
On Sunday, April 12, Navy SEAL marksmen killed the three pirates on the lifeboat and Phillips was rescued in good condition.
"SEAL Team Six", opened fire simultaneously, killing the three pirates with bullets to the head.
The bodies of the three dead pirates were turned over by the U.S. Navy to unidentified recipients in Somalia in the last week of April 2009.
It was the first successful pirate seizure of a ship registered under the American flag since the early 19th century!!!