A Navy missile destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, has arrived to help end an ongoing standoff between four Somali pirates and their American hostage off the east coast of Somalia. The hostage, the captain of the container ship, the Maersk Alabama, is being held captive in a lifeboat after a hijacking attempt early April 8.
After the Alabama’s 20 American crew members managed to wrest control of the ship back from the pirates later Wednesday, they initially detained one of the pirates. The NATO Shipping Centre reports that the crew “returned their hostage [sic] to the pirates, hoping the pirates would give back the captain of the ship… but this was not the case.”
News agencies report the captain being held hostage as Richard Phillips of Vermont. According to the Lloyd’s Register-Fairplay shipping news web site, the pirates are “conducting ransom negotiations with a satellite telephone.” Maersk Line Limited, the US-based owner and operator of the ship, said in a statement that they are “working closely with the US military and other government agencies” to resolve the standoff.
The Alabama is carrying food aid and supplies to the port city of Mombasa, Kenya. The Alabama’s hijacking by pirates was the sixth this week. The NATO Shipping Centre reports two more ships, including a Yemeni fishing boat and a Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier, have been attacked in the region. (AllAfrica.com, April 9)
Whether it is a coincidence or not, the USS Bainbridge is evidently names after William Bainbridge, an early US naval commander who twice had his own ship seized by North African pirates (more correctly, corsairs) in the Barbary Wars of 1800-1805.