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The USS Bainbridge Heritage and the Somali Pirates Hijacking of the Maersk-Alabama

History repeated itself with the hijacking by Somali pirates of the US flagged Maersk Alabama cargo vessel carrying humanitarian aid with 20 US crew members aboard. Unfortunately, the skipper of the Maersk Alabama, Capt. Richard Phillips was carried off in a lifeboat by the Somali hijackers in the scuffle when the vessel’s crew members overpowered the Somali hijackers. The life boat is now adrift, out of fuel and under surveillance by a US Navy P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft and the US destroyer, the USS Bainbridge standing nearby.

The AP report on the Maersk Alabama hijacking noted:

The pirates took Capt. Richard Phillips hostage Wednesday after they hijacked the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama, but the cargo ship's crew overpowered them and at least four then fled to a covered lifeboat. It was the first such attack on American sailors in about 200 years.

In an
Economic Times of India report , the Maresk, Alabama crew overpowered one of the Somali pirates, but blew the possibility of an exchange with Capt. Phillips when they handed the hijacker back:

Captain Richard Phillips was being held by the pirates on the ship's 28-foot lifeboat and was alive, second mate Ken Quinn earlier said.

Quinn confirmed that the crew was in control of the ship.

"We took one of the pirates hostage. We tied him up and kept him for 12 hours. We returned him, but they didn't return our captain," Quinn said.

"They're (pirates) not aboard. We're in control of the vessel. We can hear our captain - he's got a ship radio."

So now we have standoff with the Somali Pirates holding Capt. Phillips hostage. An FBI hostage negotiations team has been dispatched to the scene, some 384 miles off the coast of Somalia.

Meanwhile the USS Bainbridge with ample firepower and access to special boarding parties stands by given what passes for International Rules of Engagement in the International Flotilla.

The irony is that the
USS Bainbridge (DDG-96) an Arleigh Burke Class destroyer is named after Commodore William Bainbridge, a hostage captured by the Dey of Algiers during the Barbary Pirates War-America’s first conflict with Islamic Jihadists at the start of the 19th Century. It is the fifth such vessel named after Commodore Bainbridge. 

The USS Bainbridge was launched on in November 2003 at
Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine, sponsored by Susan Bainbridge Hay, Commodore William Bainbridge's great-great-great-granddaughter.  The vessel was commissioned  November 2005, Commander John M. Dorey commanding.

Here is Commodore  
Bainbridge’s  Barbary War saga:

In 1800, Bainbridge was sent to carry the tribute which the United States still paid to the
dey of Algiers to secure exemption from capture for its merchant ships in the Mediterranean. Upon arrival in the 24-gun USS George Washington, he made the tactical mistake of anchoring in the harbor of Algiers--directly under the guns of the fort. The dey demanded that he ferry the Algierian ambassador and retinue to Constantinople or be blown to bits on the spot. With great disgust, Bainbridge raised the Algerian flag on his masthead and submitted to the embarrassment of serving as the dey's messenger service. [1]

When the United States found that bribing the pirate
Barbary states did not work, and decided to use force, he served against Algiers and Tunis. In command of the USS Philadelphia, when she ran aground on the Tunisian coast on 29 December 1803, he was imprisoned until 3 June. On his release, he returned for a time to the merchant service in order to make good the loss of profit caused by his captivity.1806

We hope that Capt. Phillips of the Maersk Alabama does not share the same fate as Commodore Bainbridge during the Barbary Wars, becoming a hostage of the Somali pirates. Further, we trust that the Maersk shipping line does not pay the estimated $10 million ransom for Capt. Phillips. The USS Bainbridge has the ability to rescue him under gunpoint, if necessary, capturing the Somali pirate hijackers and incarcerated them for possible prosecution under international Maritime Law rules,
as confused as the latter are.


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