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April 8, 2009

Crew retakes Maersk ship, but pirates hold captain hostage

Maersk Group has issued a statement that says:

"We are able to confirm that the crew of the Maersk Alabama is now in control of the ship. The armed hijackers who boarded this ship earlier today have departed, however they are currently holding one member of the ship's crew as a hostage. The other members of the crew are safe and no injuries have been reported. We are working closely with the U.S. military and other government agencies to continue to respond to this situation as it develops further and will provide additional information as we are able."

CNN is reporting that, in a phone call from the ship, a crew member identified as second officer Christopher Quinn said that the hostage is the ship's captain, Richard Phillips, and that he is being held in the ship's 28-foot lifeboat.

There are four pirates. At one stage the crew held one of these captive. They released him in an exchange for the captain, but the pirates reneged on the deal.

Warships are en route to the vessel, which was hijacked 500 km off the Somali coast.

While the names of the crew have not been released, Boston area media have reported that both Captain Phillips and chief officer Shane Murphy are graduates of Mass. Maritime, where Murphy's father, Joseph Murphy is a professor. Among the courses he teaches is an an anti-piracy course.

The SIU represents 12 of the mariners aboard the vessel, which is enrolled in the U.S. Maritime Security Program (MSP) and is carrying humanitarian aid cargo to Africa. Some of the officers are represented by the Marine EngineersŐ Beneficial Association (MEBA), while the rest are represented by the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P).

The SIU members aboard the Maersk Alabama have undergone safety training at the union-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, which is located in Piney Point, Md.

Among the school's course offerings are an anti-terrorism briefing that is given to every student.


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