The man who captained the Maersk Alabama as it repelled a pirate attack off Somalia this week was a classmate and friend of the officer at its helm when the ship was hijacked in the same area six months ago.
Richard Phillips was held for five days in a lifeboat until he was rescued by the U.S. Navy after the April 8 attack. Paul Rochford was the captain today, said the president of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, which counts them among the class of 1979.
“It’s not unusual that the ship got approached twice by pirates, but it is ironic that they sat next to each other for four years and knew each other,” said Admiral Richard Gurnon, head of the Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, school. “It is great that the lessons were learned.”
A security team aboard the Alabama thwarted today’s attack using small-arms fire and other maneuvers, the U.S. Fifth Fleet said in a statement from Bahrain. It may be the first time a merchant ship has fought off Somali pirates by using armed guards, Cyrus Mody, a manager at the International Maritime Bureau in London, said by phone today.
Gurnon described Rochford as a quiet, hard-working professional.
“He is everything you would expect from a master mariner who has been at sea for 30 years,” Gurnon said. “The deck officers of the class of 1979 are earning their weight in ink.”
Gurnon…said the academy has previously offered a security course that includes how to deal with pirates. Since the April attack, it offers firearms instruction, which is always oversubscribed…
While the world’s navies are patrolling the area to help deter pirates, that doesn’t mean attacks will stop, Gurnon said.
“We have armed police officers patrolling our streets, and yet there are still burglars and they still manage to hit houses every night,” Gurnon said. “It is the exact same thing with maritime pirates. The only difference is they are in the kidnap business.”
Still appropriate to note that armed self-defense is a reasonable response to piracy.