More than half the crew aboard the 'Maersk Alabama' during a Somali pirate attack in April 2009 have filed lawsuits in Norfolk against the owner and operator of the ship
The five-day saga off the coast of Somalia ended when Navy SEALs killed three of the ship's masters' captors in a volley of rifle fire and a fourth pirate had previously surrendered to the Navy.
Though the master of Maersk Alabama, Captain Richard Phillips, was hailed as a hero, 11 former crew members allege in lawsuits filed in Norfolk Circuit Court and in Mobile, Ala., that his employers, through Phillips' actions, put them in grave danger when the ship sailed within about 250 miles of the Somalian coast despite warnings to stay at least 600 miles out because of pirate activity, according to 'The Virginia Pilot'.
Together, the suits seek nearly $50 million in damages from Norfolk-based Maersk Line Ltd., the owner of the ship, and Alabama-based Waterman Steamship Corp., which operated and crewed it under a charter.
Among other things, the lawsuits filed by the 11 mariners claim bodily injuries and an array of damages. They accuse the two companies of negligence, failing to provide safe working conditions, and failing to pay injured crew members reasonable compensation for medical expenses and lost wages.
Both companies deal with U.S.-flag vessels, which means crew members generally must be U.S. citizens. The 20 crew members aboard the Maersk Alabama at the time of the hijacking were from nine states, including Virginia, and Canada, according to court records filed by Waterman.
However, the Virginia crewman is reportedly not involved in the litigation.