Shipboard Observations – the Maersk Alabama Attack

A handful of outlets published an e-mail that has been said to be from one of the crewman aboard the U.S. cargo ship Maersk Alabama . You may have heard the Alabama was boarded by Somali pirates and its captain abducted and later rescued We’re sure a movie is in the works. Which chiseled gods will play the SEAL team? Though a bit long in the tooth, Val Kilmer is our pick to play the Bainbridge CO. And we like Stacy Keach for the Alabama’s captain. In fact, it could be written as a historical fantasy with the current fight fading to Capt. William Bainbridge’s efforts off the Barbary Coast at the turn of the 18th century.

But we have digressed considerably.

Though published by the likes of CNN, check out this e-mail reprinted on Information Dissemination (Observations of an Armchair Admiral)from a member of the Maersk crew identified as Matt Fisher. This naval-themed blog does not disappoint. With its multiple authors, it runs an interesting of collection of naval reports and opinions pieces. (They’re not fans of the littoral combat ship cost overruns either.)

While interesting from this “rifleman’s” perspective, his emphasis is on the absolute last line of defense. The U.S. task force patrolling the Gulf of Aden has noted the marginal preventive efforts by ships’ (small) company to keep the pirates off their vessels. Since the Alabama had been targeted by these waterborne profiteers for several hours under the veil of darkness (and darkness at sea is like no other), were the appropriate watches established, notably on the fan tail, the attack point of choice for these thugs? These details still are somewhat murky. Not to take away from the crews’ efforts, but employ the five-inch gun mount before the Zero slams into your superstructure.
The Alabama’s saga provides the illustration many have hoped for to support the greatly embellished claims of piracy as crippling menace. It is true incidents have increased in the Gulf of Aden as well as off the eastern coast of Somalia. A comparison of the first quarters of 2008 to 2009 shows incidents in the area went from 53 to 102. Actual and attempted attacks jumped from 6 to 61 for the same period. The increase of tenfold is considerable. While the IMB’s statistics are sobering, they pale when compared with total ships transiting the region. In 2008 pirate attacks affected a small fraction of one percent of the 34,000 ships (20,000 according to the IMB) passing through the region. A fourfold increase still would not break the one percent mark.

Had the Alabama been an Italian vessel (one was nabbed around the same time … did anyone outside Italy hear about it?) or one from India (one such ship successfully repelled attacks In November) chances are the current level of misinformed interest in Somali piracy would have remained unchanged. The single Alabama incident has given some meat to the myth and provided justification to the fantasy some crave. It has given the IMB a banner to wave, “See, I told you so.”

Maybe we’ll see “Dog, the Pirate Hunter” on the small screen soon. That’s right. A show about U.S. Navy swashbucklers is in the works. Maybe they’ll sneak Steven Segal on board.

Recent Posts