[B] <nyt_headline version=“1.0” type=" "> Pirates Attack Maersk Alabama Again</nyt_headline>[/B]
<nyt_byline version=“1.0” type=" ">By ALAN COWELL
</nyt_byline> Published: November 18, 2009
LONDON — As piracy intensifies in the Indian Ocean, seaborne raiders tried again on Wednesday to commandeer the Maersk Alabama, the first American-flag ship seized by pirates last April, the United States Navy said.
In a separate incident, the captain of a hijacked chemical tanker was reported to have died of gunshot wounds inflicted when pirates seized the MV Theresa with 28 North Korean crew members northwest of the Seychelles on Monday. The spate of attacks reflected the increasing boldness of pirates roaming far from their bases in Somalia to seize vessels and sailors to hold for ransom.
The United States Navy Central Command said four suspected pirates in a skiff came within 300 yards of the Maersk Alabama at 6.30 a.m. Wednesday about 600 miles off the northeast coast of Somalia as it headed for the Kenyan port of Mombasa.
But a security team on board the Maersk Alabama responded with small-arms fire, long-range acoustical devices painful to the human ear and evasive maneuvers to thwart the attack, the navy said in a statement.
“Due to Maersk Alabama following maritime industry’s best practices such as embarking security teams, the ship was able to prevent being successfully attacked by pirates,” said Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, the commander of the Central Command. “This is a great example of how merchant mariners can take pro-active action to prevent being attacked.”
No injuries or damage were reported, the Navy said.
The Maersk Alabama was seized on April 8 and the ship’s captain, Richard Phillips, was held at gunpoint in a lifeboat until United States Navy snipers shot and killed three attackers.
On Tuesday, Somali pirates released 36 crew members and their Spanish fishing vessel on Tuesday, but Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero declined to comment on reports that a ransom of nearly $3.5 million had been paid for the Alakrana and its crew. “The government did what it had to do,” he said.
In the pirate stronghold of Xarardheere, Somalia, witnesses said that 80 luxury automobiles crowded the shore as friends and family members of pirates clamored to get a share of the ransom money being divided among the pirates. “I came here to get some money from my friend, who is receiving his share today,” said one resident, Mohamoud Elmi.
On Wednesday, Reuters quoted an unidentified pirate as saying the body captain of the hijacked Theresa was still on board as it headed towards Somalia under the attackers’ control. There was no immediate official confirmation of the report.
The Theresa, registered in the Virgin Islands and operated from Singapore, had been heading for the Kenyan port of Mombasa when it was hijacked about 200 miles northwest of the Seychelles, the European Union’s naval force said in a statement on its Web site.
In addition to 14 commercial vessels now under their control, pirates are holding a British couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler, snatched from their 38-foot sailboat off the Seychelles last month.
When it was hijacked in April, the 508-foot-long Alabama was en route to the Kenyan port of Mombasa and was carrying food and other agricultural materials for the World Food Program, a United Nations agency, and other clients, including the United States Agency for International Development.
It was on a regular rotation through the Indian Ocean from Salalah, a city in southwestern Oman, to Djibouti, and then on to Mombasa, according to the company’s headquarters in Denmark.
Built in Taiwan in 1998, the ship can carry more than 1,000 20-foot containers.
The attempt to seize it again showed just how much piracy has become a multimillion-dollar business in Somalia, a nation that has limped along since 1991 without a functioning central government, offering safe haven for an array of seaborne brigands while, on land, the country is torn by civil strife.
COMMENT: PPPPPPP -Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Kudos to the crew!