Captain Richard Phillips, who you may remember was held hostage for several days on a lifeboat in the Indian Ocean after the Maersk Alabama was taken by Somali pirates last year, has been speaking about the incident.
Though Phillips had regularly trained his crew in drills to handle an attack on the Maersk — manning the high-pressured fire hoses and flares, alerting the proper maritime transportation organizations and moving into a safe room — he says the pirates on April 8 were able to avoid the crew’s evasive manoeuvring. In his new memoir, A Captain’s Duty, Phillips describes the five-day hostage ordeal that followed — and explains how he felt when the Navy SEALs staged a rescue mission and killed three of his four captors.
Phillips describes what it was initially like after he left the Maersk Alabama with the pirates and boarded the tiny Somali lifeboat.
“It [was] hot. After the first day, they had broken out two of the windows [in the closed lifeboat] just to get a breeze in there,” he tells Dave Davies. “The first night, they closed all the hatches out of fear of something happening and they never did that again — after that, the hatches were always open in the normal course of events. So it was hot. The engine is running. So it is very hot on the deck. I was basically down at this time to a pair of pants and my stocking feet and I couldn’t even put my feet down after the first few hours because it was so hot when it was continually running.”
After several days, Phillips tried to escape the lifeboat. He was caught, beaten and tied up by his captors. When they threatened to kill him, he began to focus on what he thought was the end.
“I would focus on something and go through my mind — something to my wife, my daughter [and] my son,” he says. “I would start thinking about people who had died — my father and neighbour. And people I would see — even Frannie, a dumb dog I had that was forever a problem. But I would just say my farewells. I apologized to my wife for the phone call that would tell her that her husband was dead. My daughter, I’d say a few things to her and then I’d say a few things to my son — just to settle, in my mind, so I’d be ready when the time came.”
Several hours later, Phillips was sitting in the lifeboat while the pirates were standing on the ship. In the distance, the USS Bainbridge was monitoring the situation, when the Navy SEAL snipers onboard the carrier noticed that all three of the pirates on the lifeboat were visible. They fired and killed the pirates on the lifeboat.
“They knew how many were onboard, they knew where I was,” says Phillips. “And they took a very difficult, miraculous shot and they were very successful.”
Phillips says he initially assumed he was caught in a crossfire between pirate ships and had no idea the SEALs were even there.
“I would have thought it was impossible, if you asked me — if they could have done that,” he says. “Until a guy says to me, in English, ‘Are you all right?’ which I hadn’t heard in four or five days — and then he came down the forward hatch. I wasn’t really sure what was going on. And indeed, it wasn’t until I was being hoisted up on the USS Bainbridge with the SEALs and the Navy that I truly saw that I made it out of there; that I’m alive. I made it.”
What is a Cargo Plan for a Ship?
Planning is necessary to ensure that the valuable goods and cargo loaded on a ship reach their destination without causing damage or harm to the ship or its staff. Hence a cargo plan is necessary to ensure the same.
We know that the main purpose of most types of ships is to carry cargo or passengers from one place to another. Of course there are other special-purpose vessels such as research ships or icebreakers but in this article we will concentrate on cargo carrying ships only. Please note that when I use the word cargo in context of this article, it refers to any type of cargo carrying ship such as bulkers, tankers, reefers, OBOs and so forth.
Cargo Ship Plans:
Even an average sized ship can carry thousands of tons of cargo, and this cargo cannot be simply dumped on board the vessel in a haphazard manner but needs to be stowed in an orderly fashion. This is necessary due to several reasons such as the following.
Ship Stability: The safety of the ship’s crew as well as the ship itself is of foremost importance as unplanned stowage of cargo could lead to the ship capsizing on being unstable in the rough seas. This is certainly to be avoided at all costs and there are some basic rules to be followed depending on the type of cargo. For example in case of solid cargo such as containers it is important to store heavy objects towards the bottom while the lighter ones on top just as you would do when stowing luggage on top of your car. Similarly in case of liquid cargoes it should be ensured that the cargo is compartmentalized in such a manner so as to reduce or minimize the free surface effect of the cargo which could lead to instability during the voyage. For example just see the picture of a small ship which was overloaded and what happened to it. Of course this just shows a small ship which is near the harbour but just image the case it this were to happen in the open sea
Structural Safety: Apart from stability, another factor to be kept in mind for safety reasons is to remain within the prescribed working loads for the ship structure parts such as the decks and so forth. Care should be taken not to exceed the load density of the decks.
Safety Codes: There are safety codes available for all types of dangerous cargoes such as chemicals and gases and these rules have been laid down by classification societies and/or regulatory bodies such as the International Maritime Organisation. These codes must be adhered to under all conditions so as to ensure safety of the ship staff who handles such cargoes.
Economy: since the main purpose of the ship is to maximize profit for the owners and operators, it can be achieved by carrying or transporting the maximum amount of cargo in a single voyage. Hence a proper cargo plan ensures that the available cargo space is utilized to the maximum possible efficiency. Of course this is subject the previously described norms of safety and one cannot overload a ship for maximizing profit while it jeopardizes the safety of the ship, staff and the very cargo it is carrying.
Intermixing: when more than one type of cargo is being carried, it is quite possible that some or all of these cargoes may not be compatible with each other in the sense that they could either get damaged on getting in contact with each other, or could produce some unwanted chemical reactions and so forth.
Having taken a look at the usefulness of preparing a cargo plan, we will proceed to take a look at how to go about preparation of a cargo plan as well as an actual cargo plan on a typical cargo mix.
Issue bordering on robbery on Nigerian territorial waters have long reached an alarming proportion. Nigeria is known to have the unenviable status of battling for the top position with “lawless” Somalia in the global records of piracy attacks.
On May 12, 2009, that is, almost one year ago, the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM) converged on the elite Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, (NIIA), Lagos to play host to stakeholders in the nation’s maritime industry to brainstorm on security and safety issues on Nigerian waters. The theme of the seminar was “Maritime Security in Nigerian Waters.”
From the archives, one could unearth the following and bring them forth again as reminders of what were acknowledged at the highbrow event:
• There is no real monitoring and control of vessels movement in Nigeria’s waters.
• There is also no control of ships in anchorage in Nigerian waters.
• Maritime security should achieve the assurance of freedom and secure use of the seas.
• Maritime security should achieve facilitation of freedom of navigation and commerce.
• Security of the nation’s waters should ensure promotion of prosperity and protection of resources.
Based on these acknowledgements, the following are few of their lamentations:
• Nobody can give the statistics of armed robbery attacks in the country’s territorial waters.
• Nigeria lacks a central co-ordination centre to record and respond properly to piracy attacks in the nation’s waters.
• That statistics from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) score Nigeria second only to lawless Somalia in terms of rate of piracy and hostage taking.
• While the pirates in Somalia take ransom with no reports of killings yet, Nigeria’s maritime domain is replete with killings.
• Countries such as Bangladesh and Indonesia that were once labelled as least secured with Nigeria in terms of armed robbery and violent attacks in their territorial waters have since left the list as increased aggressive patrols by the littoral state authorities have led to reduced pirate attacks in these countries.
• The cost for Nigeria of her current inadequate and improper co-ordination of maritime security is huge and will grow if the trend continues.
Based on the above, those who attended the interactive session resolved to chart the way forward. One of the agreements that were reached was that:
• Nigeria should, as a matter of expediency, establish a coast guard that will be solely responsible for safeguarding and maintaining security of lives and property in the country’s territorial waters.
• The Navy should be properly equipped with the proper hard wares and logistics to effectively discharge its core responsibility of defending Nigeria’s territorial waters, and assisting the proposed coast guard.
• Nigeria should promote effective inter-face between the Navy and the Air Force for the necessary air coverage of the nation’s waters.
• Nigeria should locate the issue of maritime security within comprehensive socio-economic plan.
• Total security in the Nigerian maritime environment can best be achieved through cooperation between the public and private sectors.
To this end the participants called for the setting up a monitoring committee to ensure proper monitoring and implementation of the decisions reached here.
Food For Thought:
1. What did NAMM do to give vent to these decisions and chat the way forward? Nothing
1. Has NAMM made any presentation to the National Assembly on the communiqué especially as regards the establishment of a Coast Guard? No
2. It is not on records that NAMM made this presentation at the House of Reps when the House committee on marine transport held the public hearing on the controversial Maritime Security Agency Bill which the lower chamber has now passed.
It is not entirely too late to salvage the interests of most maritime industry players by proceeding to the Senate with arguments for the creation of a Coast Guard as it is obtained in other maritime climes; instead of establishing an ‘indigenous agency’ (in the name of a Maritime Security Agency) that may not enjoy any relationship with any agency outside the shores of Nigeria.
Pollution: Danish Firm Fined US$30,000
A Danish shipping company has been fined $30,000 after spilling about 1000 litres of diesel and oil into the Waitemata Harbour.
The spill created a slick 500m wide, which floated across the harbour, under the harbour bridge, and coated a number of boats before washing up on the beach at Little Shoal Bay, near Birkenhead.
K/S Dania Spring – owner of the cargo ship Thor Spring – has been convicted of discharging diesel and heavy fuel oil into the sea by Environment Court judge Fred McElrea (sitting in the Auckland District Court) after an accident on November 29, 2008.
In an agreed summary of facts, prosecutors for the Auckland Regional Council said officers’ efforts to clean up the spill were hampered because the ship’s captain had told them only 10 to 20 litres of diesel and oil had spilled.
Representatives for the shipping company later agreed the real amount spilled was about 1000 litres.
The spill seems to have been caused when crew over-filled a fuel tank while filling up at Auckland port.
Little Shoal Bay was closed from November 29 to December 2, 2008, while authorities used a bulldozer to remove 4 tonnes of contaminated sand and debris after some of the spill washed up there.
Authorities were alerted to the slick only after a member of the public spotted it and called the Fire Service.
In a letter to the shipping company, Ports of Auckland general manager Wayne Mills said he was concerned no one from the company had reported the spill.
Crew were seen running around using sawdust to clean the deck of the ship about 10 minutes after the overflow, about 5.18pm.
The ship’s representatives said the master of Thor Spring called the company, Graig Ship Management, on an emergency line at 5.40pm to say there had been a spill.
The shipping company paid the regional council $16,858 for the cost of the beach clean up and the council will receive 90 per cent of the $30,000 fine.
Lawyers for Thor Spring did not return the Herald’s messages last week. A spokesman for the ship’s New Zealand agent, Wilhelmsen Ships Service, said he did not wish to comment.
“How Pirates Operate” By IMB
An analysis of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB reports shows that pirates are using military-grade weaponry to attack ships and receive the sanction and support of Somali warlords who see hijacking foreign ships and holding them for ransom as a lucrative venture.
Attacks usually follow a predictable pattern, carried out with the intention of forcing ship owners or governments to pay large ransoms to ensure the safe release of crew. They take place across a vast swathe of the Indian Ocean, some occurring east of the Seychelles.
Most pirates employ similar tactics:
• After detecting a potential target, a mother ship (or "mother skiff") deploys several smaller skiffs crewed by teams of between five and 12 heavily-armed pirates.
• The skiffs follow their target, usually opening fire once they are within range. Assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) are often used.
• Provided their target does not manage to outmanoeuvre them, and they have not met resistance, the pirates attempt to board the ship using ladders and grappling hooks.
• Once aboard, they seize control of the ship and take the crew hostage, then force them to sail to the Somali coast.
• The pirates then attempt to make contact with the crew’s employer or relevant government and try to extort from them ransoms that may be as much as U.S. $3 million.
Most hijack attempts are unsuccessful, either because ships evade the pirates, or use fire hoses – and, more recently weapons – to chase the pirates off.
Naval escorts, supported by maritime reconnaissance aircraft and helicopters, also help avert or disrupt attacks.
IMB Warns Ship To Be More Vigilant And To Sail Even Farther From African Coast!
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) which monitors crime at sea with special attention to piracy, has issued a warning advisory to shipping companies to ensure that seafarers increase their anti-piracy vigilance.
This follows last week’s attack on a very large crude carrier (VLCC), the 300,000-dwt SAMHO DREAM which was highjacked by Somali pirates despite being almost 1600 km (1000 miles) from the nearest African coast. The 19 Filipinos and five South Korean crew are now hostages and the vessel is heading towards Somalia while the pirates have no doubt begun negotiating a sizeable ransom.
A South Korean navy ship has caught up with the tanker, but it is thought unlikely to take any action that might jeopardize the safety of the crew and ship.
Samho Dream had sailed earlier from Iraq and was bound for a US port to discharge its cargo of crude oil.
"Ships that are sailing in the Indian Ocean will have to maintain a strict and vigilant watch despite sailing more than 1,000 nautical miles ¨C so far from the Somali coast," said Noel Choong, director of the IMB’s piracy reporting centre said in Kuala Lumpur.
Meanwhile, in the latest reported attack, the K Line container ship HAMBURG BRIDGE (flying the Panama flag and with an all-Filipino crew), managed to evade pirates while sailing approximately 250 n.miles east of the Gulf of Aden en route to the Suez Canal and Port Said.
The attack took place at 16h00 local time last Monday. Although the pirates, who were in an open high-speed boat (skiff) opened fire and the ship suffered some minor damage, there were no injuries to crew and the Hamburg Bridge was able to out-manoeuvre the pirates and accelerate away from danger. After about 45 minutes the pirates abandoned the attack.