The Maersk Alabama was captured by Somali pirates on April 8, 2009. When you visit the Navy SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida, you can board the lifeboat upon which Captain Richard Phillips was held hostage for five days before being rescued on April 12, thanks to the accuracy of Navy SEAL snipers.
On Wednesday, April 8, 2009, four Somali pirates hijacked the U.S.-flagged cargo ship, Maersk Alabama. The ship’s captain, Richard Phillips, prevented the initial takeover by ordering his crew to lock themselves in a secure room while he remained on the bridge. To safeguard his crew and free the Alabama, Captain Phillips surrendered himself to the pirates and boarded this lifeboat to be taken ashore in Somalia.
The next day, the U.S.Navy destroyer USS Bainbridge arrived on the scene and began negotiating with the pirates for the release of Captain Phillips. While negotiating, the crew of the Bainbridgeestablished a “control net” around this lifeboat to prevent the pirates from receiving support from pirate mother ships in the area.
On April 10, Captain Phillips noticed a lapse in the pirates’ security and attempted to escape from the lifeboat to swim to the Bainbridge. The pirates shot at him with their AK-47s and recaptured him. His situation became dire as the pirates became more desperate under conditions of extreme heat, unsanitary conditions, high winds and the effects of chewing quat and sleep deprivation. They hoped to drift closer to the Somali coast and have greater negotiating leverage.
On Saturday April 11, the pirates agreed to be towed by the Bainbridge as one of them came aboard to begin negotiating for the captain’s release. Later that day, a team of Navy SEALs parachuted into the area and were brought aboard the Bainbridge. They took position on the fantail of the Bainbridge, trained their sniper rifles on the lifeboat tethered behind the ship and waited in the 100+ degree heat. On Easter Sunday, April 12, the captain of the Bainbridge, Commander Frank Castellano, determined that Captain Phillips’ life was in danger and ordered the SEAL snipers to take the shot.
You can board the Alabama lifeboat at the Museum and see the holes left by the SEAL bullets as they opened fire simultaneously, firing three bullets and killing three pirates.
The Maersk Alabama lifeboat arrived at the Museum on in April, 2009. The museum assisted the makers of the motion picture Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks, due out in October, 2013.