Pirates Fail in Third Attempt to Seize Maersk Alabama

Pirates Fail in Third Attempt to Seize Maersk Alabama

Suspected Somali pirates tried to seize the Maersk Alabama again on Tuesday in the third attempt to hijack it in three years.

Four people suspected of being pirates approached the ship in a skiff in which a hook ladder could be seen. When the skiff came within half a nautical mile, the ship's captain authorized the firing of warning shots.

"Maersk Alabama was approached by a suspicious skiff with four people and a ladder onboard," said Kevin Speers a spokesman for Maersk Line Limited, the U.S.-flag subsidiary of Denmark's Maersk Line.

"The captain followed the appropriate protocol and authorized an embarked security team to fire warning shots in order for the pirates to turn away. Shortly after, the small boat departed the area astern of the vessel," Speers said in a statement.

Tuesday's attempted hijacking was the third time pirates have tried to seize the U.S.-flag container ship. The first two attempts occurred in 2009.

In the spring of 2009, pirates succeeded in boarding the 1,100-TEU containership, which was recaptured by the crew, which had been hiding in a safe room. Capt. Richard Phillips turned himself in to the pirates in exchange for one of his crew, but when the pirates reneged on a deal to free him in exchange for one of their men, U.S. Navy SEAL snipers killed two of his captors in a lifeboat where they were holding him.

Pirates attacked the ship a second time later that fall, but were driven off by small-arms fire.

As a U.S.-flag and crewed vessel, the Maersk Alabama is able to carry U.S. food aid and other humanitarian cargo. The ship was westbound sailing toward Mombasa at the time of Tuesday's hijacking attempt, as it was in 2009.

The Maersk Alabama, which was originally named the Alva Maersk when it was completed in a Taiwanese shipyard in 1998, was reflagged under the U.S. flag and is manned by an American crew because it is part of the U.S. Maritime Security Program, which is run by the Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration.

The Maersk Alabama is operated by LMS Shipmanagement under charter hire to Maersk Line Ltd. LMS Shipmangement is a subsidiary of International Shipholding and also operates its Waterman Steamship fleet.

-- Contact Peter T. Leach at pleach@joc.com.