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December 3rd, 2009

Maersk Alabama Crew Blames Captain for Pirate Attack

Captain Richard Phillips, considered hero after being taken captive by Somali pirates, allegedly ignored repeated warnings to keep his freighter at least 600 miles off the African coast because of the heightened risk of attack.

Records obtained by The Associated Press show that maritime safety groups issued warnings in the days before outlaws boarded the Maersk Alabama off the shore of Somalia.

Many crewmembers upon learning of these warnings now for the first time, say Captain Phillips was negligent not to change course after learning of the dangerous pirate activity.  A complaint has been filed against Phillips with the U.S. Coast Guard.  Maersk Line officials deferred comment, citing the pending legal cases.

Changing course to avoid the pirate-ridden Somali Coast would have added more than a day to the Alabama’s voyage to Mombasa, Kenya and used extra fuel.

The AP obtained copies of the advisories from a crewmember.

The ship’s helmsman SMSH Client, Abu Tasir Mohammed Reza, of West Hartford, Conn., said he lost respect for Phillips once he found out about the warnings.  “He didn’t follow those warnings. He did not realize that something is coming ahead. He did not take it seriously. He did not change the course,” Reza said.

“I put faith in the fact that we were going to take some kind of evasive action,” said Engineer John Cronan, SMSH Client, of Merion, Pa., who has sued for injuries to his left knee and ankle. “I thought it was a given that we would do the best we could given our capabilities to get out of the danger zone. The prudent sailor avoids the hurricane instead of driving through it.”

For more information about piracy, please contact us at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers.

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