Maersk Alabama hijacking

The ship, originating from Salalah, Oman was bound for Mombasa, Kenya after a stop in Djibouti with a crew of 23, loaded with 17,000 metric tons (19,000 short tons) of cargo. On 8 April 2009, four pirates based on FV Win Far 161 attacked the ship. All four of the pirates were between 17 and 19 years old, according to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

The crew members of Maersk Alabama had received anti-piracy training from union training schools, and had drilled aboard the ship a day previously. Their training included the use of small arms, anti-terror, basic safety, first aid, and other security-related courses. When the pirate alarm sounded early on 8 April, Chief Engineer Mike Perry brought 14 members of the crew into a "secure room" that the engineers had been in the process of fortifying for just such a purpose. As the pirates approached, the remaining crew fired flares. In addition, Perry and 1st A/E (Assistant Engineer) Matt Fisher swung the ship's rudder, which swamped the pirate skiff.

Nonetheless, the ship was boarded. Perry had initially taken main engine control away from the bridge and 1st A/E Matt Fisher had taken control of the steering gear. Perry then shut down all ship systems and the entire vessel "went black." The pirates captured Captain Richard Phillips and several other crew members minutes after boarding, but soon found that they could not control the ship.

Perry remained outside the secure room lying in wait, knife in hand, for a visit from the pirates who were trying to locate the missing crew members in order to gain control of the ship and presumably sail it to Somalia. Perry tackled the ringleader of the pirates and took him prisoner after a cat-and-mouse chase in a darkened engine room. Pirate ringleader Abduwali Muse cut his hand trying to keep Perry's knife away from his neck. The pirate was then tied up and his wounds were treated by Second Mate Ken Quinn.

Later, after suffering in the overheated secure room for hours, the crew attempted to exchange the pirate whom they had captured for the captain, but the exchange went awry and the pirates refused to honor the agreement after the crew released their captive. Captain Phillips escorted the pirates to a lifeboat to show them how to operate it, but then the pirates fled in the lifeboat with Phillips as a hostage.

On 8 April the United States Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge DDG-96 and the guided-missile frigate USS Halyburton FFG-40 were dispatched to the Gulf of Aden in response to the hostage situation, Halyburton carrying two Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk helicopters on board. The ships reached Maersk Alabama early on 9 April.

Maersk Alabama was then escorted from the scene to its original destination of Mombasa where Captain Larry D. Aasheim took command of the ship. Phillips had relieved Aasheim nine days earlier. CNN and Fox News quoted sources stating that the pirates' strategy was to await the arrival of additional hijacked vessels carrying more pirates and additional hostages to use as human shields.