Crew of US ship rescued from Somali pirates sues owners for $50m
Monday, 28 May 2012 | 11:00
One of the most remarkable stories of derring-do on the high seas in modern times has become mired in lawsuits, it has emerged.
The saga of the Maersk Alabama, which was attacked by Somali pirates three years ago, is set to be made into a Hollywood film starring Tom Hanks.
But real-life crew members are engaged in legal mutiny, with more than half now suing the vessel's owner and operator claiming their lives were endangered, the Virginia-Pilot newspaper has reported.
The 2009 incident captured the world's attention after the ship's skipper Captain Richard Phillips offered himself as hostage to the pirates in return for his crew and ship's freedom.
The brigands accepted, but the incident ended when elite US navy Seals snipers later shot three of them dead and freed Phillips.
Out of a 20-strong crew, 11 members have launched legal actions against their former corporate bosses claiming that it – via Phillips' actions – put them at risk.
They say Phillips ignored warnings about pirate activity and sailed too close to the notoriously pirate-infested Somali shore.
They are seeking in total almost $50m in damages. "Phillips and Maersk put the men in harm's way, in spite of warnings to keep them out of the pirate-infested waters. They did so for financial gain," Deborah Waters, attorney for the crew members, told the newspaper.
Somalia has now been without a central government for more than two decades. It has been wracked by civil war, foreign intervention and religious conflict, and highly lucrative piracy operations have sprung up along its coastline.
Foreign ships and their crews passing by are frequently captured and held to ransom – an activity that has prompted an international naval coalition to patrol near Somali waters.
However, few incidents of Somali piracy have received as much renown as the Maersk Alabama attack.
Hanks' film is based on Phillips' book about his experiences called "A Captain' Duty". It will be directed by Paul Greengrass, whose previous films include The Bourne Ultimatum.
In a statement given to The Pilot the company Maersk said the lawsuits were "meritless."
Previous lawsuits from the incident were filed in Texas but have been held up by complex processes of litigation.
There are no comments available.