Captain Phillips No Hero

Captain PhillipsCaptain Phillips, according to his crew, proved to be no hero during the 2009 pirate attack on the cargo ship Maersk Alabama.

The first thoughts to come to mind about piracy is wooden galleons on the high seas, cannons blazing, as pirates armed with cutlasses and flint pistols swing across decks on ropes to capture their prize. Many pirates were actually privateers operating under the authority of major countries at war with one another, with the top three being Spain, France and Britain.

However, modern piracy is anything but glamorous. In 2009, the cargo ship Maersk Alabama was hijacked off the coast of Somalia. Formerly known as the Alva Maersk, the ship was no stranger to mishap. In 2004, the ship was detained in Kuwait, at the the center of a fraud scheme to sell low value cargo as high value goods. According to papers filed in a New York District Court by A. P. Moller-Maersk Group, they were forced to put up $1.86 million for the ship, which was held as collateral. Maersk had been sued by the ex-Kuwaiti patriots for the loss of goods that did not exist.

On November 18, 2009, the Alabama Maersk was attacked by four pirates and its captain, Richard Phillips, was held hostage while the crew had locked itself in the engine room, enduring 130 degree heat. The alleged events surrounding the attack would inspire the making of the 2013 Oscar nominated movie titled Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks in the lead role.

Something odd surrounding the release of the film: the crew members actually involved in its making were paid very little and were actually forced into a non-disclosure agreement by Sony Pictures, which basically meant they could not talk about their experiences for the rest of their lives. The reasons why would soon become apparent.

Captain Richard Phillips was touted as an American hero, which, according to his crew, was far from the truth. The movie itself, supposedly based on the actual events, while “very entertaining” as one crewmember put it, was hardly the truth. Choosing to remain anonymous for legal reasons, he claims that most of the movie is “one big lie” and that Captain Phillips was no hero. For the most part, no one wanted to sail with him, claiming he was “real arrogant.”

It has also been alluded that he may have exacerbated the circumstances involving the attack by ignoring anti-piracy protocols, such as sailing too close to the coast. Amongst the many inaccuracies surrounding the attack and rescue was that Phillips offered himself in exchange for his crew. Phillips was already a hostage. Others include: the drills at the beginning of the attack Phillips had the crew performing were lifeboat drills and not security drills. At the onset of the attack, the crew wanted to go to anti-piracy stations, but were refused by the captain, because the lifeboat drills were more important.

Other inaccuracies, large and small, has one wondering why Tom Hanks would have hitched his wagon to a man, despite an NDA gag on his crew members, who was revealed to be far less than a hero. At this point, when many news outlets are carrying the story of just how unheroic Captain Phillips was during the attack, and his crew is speaking out anonymously about his behavior during the attack, what is the point of an NDA? About the only fact true about the attack is of the three pirates being taken out simultaneously by snipers from famed Seal Team Six, fearing for Phillips immediate safety.

Overall, the movie Captain Phillips might be worth the Oscar nomination, but the actions of the title character that inspired the making of the movie are not. Still, given the situation, one thing Captain Phillips has proved to be true: if he is no hero, he is certainly human and none of us are perfect. The crew of the Maersk Alabama has currently filed a lawsuit against the parent company Maersk Line and the Waterman Steamship Corp for wanton disregard of safety.

Editorial by Lee Birdine

New York Post
History vs. Hollywood