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MV Maersk Alabama (formerly Alva Maersk) is a container ship owned by Maersk Line Limitedmarker and operated by Waterman Steamship.

It has a light-blue hull and a beige superstructure like all Maersk vessels, regardless of their flag of registry. It is noted for its hijacking by pirates near Somaliamarker in 2009, the subsequent hostage rescue, and a second, unsuccessful, hijacking attempt later that year.


Alva Maersk was built by China Shipbuilding Corporation, Keelung, Taiwan at yard number 676 and launched in 1998. As Alva Maersk, she was flagged to Denmarkmarker. In 2004, Alva Maersk was renamed Maersk Alabama and reflagged to the United Statesmarker, with its parent company being homeported in Norfolk, Virginiamarker. She has been involved in two incidents, and remains in active service on Maersk Line's East Africa 4 service. Her regular route is from Mombasa, Kenyamarker to Salalahmarker, Djiboutimarker, returning to Mombasa.

2004 detention

In 2004, the ship was detained in Kuwait after becoming the victim of an apparent fraud scheme. According to papers filed by the A.marker P.marker Moller-Maersk Groupmarker with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in 2005, Kuwaitmarker-based expatriates scammed the Group out of millions of dollars. Low-value goods were allegedly shipped under the guise of fraudulent, high-value bills of lading. Maersk was subsequently sued for losing goods that had never existed. Those allegedly behind the scheme were able to detain Alva Maersk in Kuwait as collateral. The ship was released in April 2004 after the A.marker P.marker Moller-Maersk Groupmarker was forced to put up $1.86 million as collateral.

April 2009 attempted pirate seizure

On April 7, 2009 the US Maritime Administration, following NATOmarker advisories, released a Somalia Gulf of Aden advisory to Mariners recommending ships to stay at least 600nmi off the coast of Somalia. With these advisories well in effect, on April 8, 2009, four Somali pirates boarded the Maersk Alabama when it was located southeast of the Somalia port city of Eylmarker. With a crew of 20, the ship was en route to Mombasamarker, Kenyamarker. Maersk Line Limited, (part of the Moller-Maersk Group, the largest shipping company in the world) is one of the United States Department of Defensemarker's primary shipping contractors, although the vessel was not under military contract at the time. The ship was carrying 17,000 metric tons of cargo, of which 5,000 metric tons were relief supplies bound for Somalia, Uganda, and Kenya.
According to Chief Engineer Mike Perry, the engineers sank the pirate speedboat shortly after the boarding by continuously swinging the rudder of the Maersk Alabama thus scuttling the smaller boat. As the pirates were boarding the ship, the crew members locked themselves in the engine room while the captain and two other crewmembers remained on the bridge. The engineers then took away control of the ship from down below, rendering the bridge controls useless. The pirates were thus unable to control the ship. The crew later used "brute force" to overpower one of the pirates, Abduhl Wal-i-Musi and free one of the hostages, ATM Reza. Frustrated, the pirates decided to leave the ship, and took Phillips with them to a lifeboat as their bargaining chip. The crew attempted to exchange this captured pirate, whom they had kept tied up for twelve hours, for Captain Phillips. The captured pirate was released but the pirates refused to release Phillips. After running out of fuel in the ship's man overboard boat, they transferred and left in the ship's covered lifeboat, taking Phillips with them. The lifeboat carried ten days of food rations, water and basic survival supplies.

On April 8, the destroyer was dispatched to the Gulf of Adenmarker in response to a hostage situation, and reached Maersk Alabama early on April 9. Maersk Alabama then departed from the area with an armed escort, towards its original destination in Mombasa, Kenya, with the vessel's Chief Mate, Shane Murphy in charge. On Saturday, April 11, Maersk Alabama arrived in the port of Mombasa, Kenyamarker, still under U.S. military escort, where C/M Murphy was relieved by Captain Larry Aasheim, who had previously been captain of the Maersk Alabama until Richard Phillips relieved him eight days prior to the pirate attack. An 18-man marine security team was on board. The FBImarker secured the ship as a crime scene.

On April 9, a stand-off began between USS Bainbridge and the pirates in the Maersk Alabama's lifeboat, where they continued to hold Captain Phillips hostage. On Sunday, April 12, Phillips was rescued in good condition. Acting under prior authorization from U.S. President Barack Obama, the captain of USS Bainbridge, Commander Frank Castellano, ordered the action upon determining that Capt. Phillips' life was in immediate danger, as provided by US Navy SEAL reports of an AK-47 assault rifle pointed at him. Navy SEALs snipers on Bainbridge's fantail opened fire, killing the three pirates remaining in the lifeboat., including Ali Aden Elmi.A fourth pirate, Abdul Wali Muse, aboard the Bainbridge and being treated for an injury sustained in the takeover of Maersk Alabama, surrendered and was taken into custody.

November 2009 pirate attack

At 6:30 am on November 18, 2009, the Maersk Alabama was reportedly sailing some 350 nautical miles east of Somalia when it was fired upon by four pirates wielding automatic weapons and traveling in a skiff. The assault failed after guards on the ship responded with small arms fire and acoustical weapons. Afterward, a Djiboutimarker-based patrol plane flew to the scene and an EU ship searched the area.

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