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Somali Pirates Holding American Ship Captain

April 9, 2009

The BBC News has the continuing story of the American ship hijacked off the coast of Somalia. The Maersk Alabama was boarded by at least four Somali pirates in an area of the Indian Ocean that has been targeted in recent years by Somali hijackers. It appears that the Americans have retaken their ship and that the hijackers have fled in a life boat. While it is still unclear what transpired while the intruders where on board, the BBC reports that

[f]amily members said Capt Phillips had offered himself to the pirates to secure the safety of his crew.

“What I understand is that he offered himself as the hostage,” Gina Coggio, his wife’s half-sister, told the AP news agency. “That is what he would do. It’s just who he is and his response as a captain.”

The larger issue of piracy off the coast of Somalia is both tragic and fascinating. A radio report I heard recently indicated that this hijacking was the first of an American vessel in over 200 years. That this antique crime would be resurfacing in the world as a result of the ongoing plight of the failed state in Somalia, and that these pirates have become men of wealth and stature in that decimated country, seems like a story out of an old history textbook, not a cause for concern in the 21st century.

And, just a random thought, the decision of Captain Phillips to trade himself for his crew also somehow seems like the behavior of another time. If it is true that he bartered for the lives of his men with his own life, he would stand in stark contrast to other leaders of today, particularly in the business world, who see their position at the top of an organization as an opportunity to enrich themselves as opposed to an obligation to secure the well-being of the people who make the corporation function. The difference is stark: millions of dollars in bathroom renovations for the former head of Merrill Lynch, John Thain vs. the behavior of the Captain of the Maersk Alabama.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Jacob permalink
    April 9, 2009 11:24 am

    Piracy off the Somalian coast has been underway for several years now. It’s not that new of a situation.

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