Message to Pirates: Don’t Mess with U.S. Merchant Mariners
So Somali pirates decided to take a U.S. flagged ship. Except they apparently didn’t realize that U.S.-flagged ships have something other ships don’t–U.S. Merchant Mariners (including a couple from nearby Mass. Maritime Academy). So, while other countries bargain and dicker with pirates, this U.S. crew took matters into their own hands:
The crew of a U.S.-flag ship seized by pirates off Somalia has retaken the vessel, American officials said Wednesday, even as the national security establishment faced troubling questions about the hostage-taking at high sea.
Capt. Joseph Murphy, an instructor at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, told The Associated Press that his son Shane, the second in command on the ship, had called him to say the crew had regained control.
The ship, captured by pirates near the coast of Somalia, apparently was the first such hostage-taking involving U.S. citizens in 200 years. In December 2008, Somali pirates chased and shot at a U.S. cruise ship with more than 1,000 people on board but failed to hijack the vessel.
“The crew is back in control of the ship,” a U.S. official said at midday, speaking on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak on the record. “It’s reported that one pirate is on board under crew control—the other three were trying to flee,” the official said. The status of the other pirates was unknown, the official said, but they were reported to “be in the water.”
The crew apparently contacted the private shipping that it works for. That company, Maersk, scheduled a noon news conference in Norfolk, Va, defense officials said.
Another U.S. official, citing a readout from an interagency conference call, said: “Multiple reliable sources are now reporting that the Maersk Alabama is now under control of the U.S. crew. The crew reportedly has one pirate in custody. The status of others is unclear, they are believed to be in the water.”
As a proud graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, I was taught to live by the Academy’s motto: Acta Non Verba (Deeds, or Action, not Words). Most of the mariners I know live by this creed, regardless of their schooling or training. It is the sort of attitude that has seen American merchant sailors through war since the founding of this country. And it’s heartening to see that that spirit still thrives on the world’s oceans, at least as long as the ship flies America’s colors.
It’s a long, long way to go.
It’s a long, long pull with our hatches full,
Braving the wind, braving the sea,
Fighting the treacherous foe;
Heave Ho! My lads, Heave Ho!
Let the sea roll high or low,
We can cross any ocean, sail any river.
Give us the goods and we’ll deliver,
Damn the submarine!
We’re the men of the Merchant Marine!