April 15, 2009
Pirates attack another U.S.-flag ship
Another U.S.-flag food-aid ship, the Liberty Sun, was attacked by Somali pirates Tuesday night, en route to Kenya.
"The pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at the vessel, which sustained damage," said a statement from New York-based Liberty Maritime Corporation, which owns the vessel.
However, the the pirates did not succeed in boarding the ship and the vessel is now being escorted by the guided missile destroyer USS Bainbridge, the ship involved in the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama.
CNN and other media sources are quoting emails sent Katy Urbik of Wheaton, Illinois, by her son, Thomas, a marine engineer aboard the Liberty Sun.
"We are under attack by pirates, we are being hit by rockets. Also bullets," said one e-mail sent Tuesday afternoon. "We are barricaded in the engine room and so far no one is hurt. [A] rocket penetrated the bulkhead but the hole is small. Small fire, too, but put out.
"Navy is on the way and helos and ships are coming. I'll try to send you another message soon. [G]ot to go now. I love you mom and dad and all my brothers and family."
About 90 minutes later, another e-mail arrived that, according to CNN, said, "The Navy has showed up in full force and we are now under military escort ... all is well. I love you all and thank you for the prayers."
Liberty Maritime issued the following statement this morning:
We are grateful and pleased that no one was injured and the crew and the ship are safe. We have communicated with the families of the crew to inform them of these developments. We commend the entire crew for its professionalism and poise under fire.
The LIBERTY SUN was on a voyage enroute to Mombasa, Kenya from Houston, Texas carrying American food aid cargo for African nations suffering from famine. Earlier last week, the vessel had discharged thousands of tons of American food aid cargo in Port Sudan and it was continuing its voyage with additional food aid when it came under attack from the Somali pirates.
Liberty Maritime's first priority has been, and will continue to be, ensuring that the crews aboard our ships are safe. We want to especially thank the United States Navy for its prompt response to our request for assistance. We also wish to thank the U.S. Government for its cooperation in responding to this attack.
According to the most recent NATO piracy update the attack took place at 1530 GMT. The attacking vessel was described as a white aluminum fishing skiff with four pirates, two with RPGs and one or two with AK47s.
The NATO report also says that at 1300 LT, two boats with eight people approached the MV SAFMARINE ASIA. Shots were fired into the air from the two boats and an RPG was fired which struck the MV's mainmast, although no serious damage was sustained. After a short time, the speedboats again disappeared astern of ship.