Maersk Alabama crewman sues over incident
The chief cook of the Maersk Alabama filed a lawsuit against his former employer and the operator of the ship on Monday saying they had failed to adequately protect him from pirates.
Richard E. Hicks, a resident of Royal Palm Beach, Fla., filed the suit in state court in Houston against Waterman Steamship Co. and Maersk Line Ltd.
Hicks suit said he “suffered severe injuries when he was taken hostage by the pirates, held in the engine steering room of the ship and was thrown about during a struggle with one of the pirates” when the ship was attacked off the coast of Somalia on April 8.
He said his damages are in excess of $75,000 and reserved the right in increase the amount of damages he may seek saying that he has suffered physical pain and mental anguish and that there is a “reasonable probability” that he may suffer loss of earning capacity in the future.
In a press interview, Hicks praised the actions of Richard Phillips, the captain of the ship who had given himself as a hostage in order to get them to abandon the Maersk Alabama in a lifeboat.
Three of the pirates who held Phillips were killed by Navy snipers during a standoff with the military five days after their initial attack on the ship. A fourth pirate who was receiving medical treatment during the hostage negotiations has been charged with piracy and other crimes in Federal Court and is jailed in New York while awaiting trial.
The Associated Press said that in an interview Hicks called for the companies to improve safety for ships by providing armed security or allowing crewmembers to carry weapons. Hicks also said suggestions by crewmembers on how to improve safety on the ship had been ignored, AP reported.
Those comments could fuel a growing debate about the wisdom of putting security personnel or arming mariners, an idea that ship owners, through groups like the International Chamber of Shipping, have opposed because of fears it might escalate violence. Having seafarers armed has also been opposed by the International Transport Workers Federation, which feels defense of ships is better left to the military or police and is not an additional duty that should be imposed on seafarers.
In one of his first interviews since being held hostage, Phillips said this morning on the NBC Today Show, that he had always thought it likely that the Maersk Alabama would be attacked by pirates because of the area in which it operated.
He also said that tensions between the pirates had been growing before Navy SEAL snipers killed them and that he originally thought the gunfire from his rescuers had been the result of the pirates shooting each other.
Jon Whitlow, secretary of the ITF's Seafarers' Section, told American Shipper: 'The ITF is against asking already overburdened seafarers to carry firearms on practical, jurisdictional and moral grounds. The use of arms is best carried out by those trained, equipped and free to do so; the police and navies whose experience, equipment and support is superior to that of the pirates. Overstretched, outgunned seafarers could quickly find themselves overrun by even more vengeful pirates.'