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April 9th, 2009
09:27 AM ET

Crewman's father: Hostage can survive ten days in lifeboat

The father of one of the crew members of the Maersk Alabama confirms his son is now safe.
The father of one of the crew members of the Maersk Alabama confirms his son is now safe.

Somali pirates hold an American captain hostage on the seas at the horn of Africa. A U.S. Navy destroyer is on the scene charged with keeping watch.

The ship’s second in command, Captain Shane Murphy, has been in contact with his family. Shane's dad, Captain Joseph Murphy who teaches a course on piracy and security at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, spoke with Kiran Chetry on CNN’s American Morning Thursday.

Kiran Chetry: Give us an update on the last time you had a chance to speak to your son, Shane.

Joseph Murphy: The last communication we had from the ship was actually yesterday. We haven't heard any word from Shane since yesterday afternoon. He did tell us that he was safe and that the crew was safe and that of course the concern is now focused on Captain Phillips who's in a lifeboat with the four pirates.

Chetry: The crew kept one of the pirates. They were going to try to have some sort of exchange take place and the Somali pirates reneged on that. What is the situation in that lifeboat? How long can they stay and in what condition is the captain likely in?

Murphy: I would suspect that the captain is in very good condition. The lifeboat is only a 28-foot boat. It's got emergency rations for about ten days for its capacity. It's a very uncomfortable place. It's very small. There are no toilet facilities or anything like that. The captain has a VHF radio and I'm sure that he's in voice communication with the ship itself. The problem is, of course, that the radio is going to - the battery is going to die. And I'm not really sure how they'll continue communication after that.

Chetry: Can you give us some sort of sense on how the crew was able to overtake the pirates? They were not armed. They did not have guns with them. They said they had first tried to get away. They tried to move the ship away and these pirates were apparently firing their rifles. How did that takeover take place?

Murphy: We really don’t know and it’s really only supposition. They completed all of the emergency procedures that they've been trained to deal with. They've all been trained in tactics as well. I’m sure that they cornered this individual and put him in a position where he couldn't fire the weapon and they overpowered him.

Chetry: Amazing. You teach a course at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy about security, about piracy. Of course, we've all seen this escalating situation that's taken place in that area, this Horn of Africa shipping route. What do you teach them? What do you teach people who may be faced with the situation on what to do to defend themselves?

Murphy: It's all defensive procedures. There's no offensive procedure at all. The best battle is the battle never fought. Unfortunately when pirates do get up on to the ship, there are a few options available to the crew. They're taught evasive measures to prevent them from coming onboard, the checks and the vigilance that's required to stand an appropriate watch for prior warning before they actually get to the ship. In this case, of course, they arrived in - under the cover of darkness and were able to board the ship. Unfortunately. And, this was the crew's response. This is how they chose - they saw the opportunity and they took it.

Chetry: It's wonderful that that happened. It’s unfortunate as we understand it that the captain is still being held by the pirates right now. A lot of people are wondering why aren't they armed? Why aren't these crews armed or why doesn't the shipping company itself have armed guards or some sort of security knowing how dangerous this region is?

Murphy: Some companies do actually have armed guard forces onboard. They do it in high-risk areas. Unfortunately the pirates have expanded that area. This area is huge and there's just no way they're going to put armed forces onboard. There is a certain consideration about the use of weapons on ships. Some people believe in it. Other people don't. If you're going to use weapons, you have to be well-trained and you have to practice with their use. So we see many people not use them.

Chetry: How do you see this ending? How do you see the development and what should we look for in terms of when they'll release the captain?

Murphy: I think what’s going to happen is very quickly, they've been boxed in. They’ve removed 19 other crew members to a safe environment. They're in a lifeboat. Let’s be careful what you ask for, you might just get it. They have few options, they don't have enough fuel to go anywhere and they’re not going to be allowed to move. They’re going to sit in that lifeboat until they run out of water and food and they're going to have to make a decision. If the weather should become bad, there's going to be a considerable amount of seasickness as well. So, we'll see what happens.

Filed under: Piracy
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. nancy

    @ Dan Nelson ~~ I agree with you 100%!

    April 9, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  2. Dan Nelson

    They should not only carry weapons but they should shoot to kill these pirates before they can even get close to these ships. That is the only way to control these pirates. They will then think twice about attacking ships!

    April 9, 2009 at 11:13 am |
  3. M J L

    I pray that the hostage is released and that these pirates can be controlled. However I do not believe that our ships should carry weapons.

    April 9, 2009 at 10:12 am |
  4. jcw3

    Welcome to the Obama Age of Appeasement!

    April 9, 2009 at 9:48 am |
  5. mark bickham

    Great... so this is what its come to...we have a war ship in front of an 18' life boat...and we need to call in the F.B.I. to help.... this is sad!!!

    April 9, 2009 at 9:31 am |