Capt. Phillips' Hero Status Put Into Question - SailNet Community

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Old 10-08-2013
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Capt. Phillips' Hero Status Put Into Question

The movie has been released and now the crew is talking. Some are suing Maersk claiming Phillips put the ship and crew in peril by sailing so close to the coast. They say Phillips did this to reach their destination faster.

I saw the movie in a sneak preview the other day. As far as movies go, it was very entertaining. I really enjoyed it. As far as painting Phillips as a hero, I didn't see it. I thought the Phillips character portrayed in the movie did some pretty dumb things. The dumbest was allowing their Somali hostage "Skinny" to enter the life raft before Phillips was out of harm's way.

Anyway, in the movie, I never saw Phillips do anything heroic. Hanks had some bravado moments but they weren't consistent with other actions by the Captain. Phillips didn't come across in the movie like someone I would entrust with my life.

So Phillips gets the book deal and the movie deal and the crew gets nothing. So they sue. Can't say I blame them.
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Old 10-09-2013
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Re: Capt. Phillips' Hero Status Put Into Question

While the crew may be jealous, I don't see a legitimate beef over the Capt getting a book/movie deal and not them. They weren't in the lifeboat with armed pirates for several days. The Capt had to believe he wasn't going to survive that. Most don't. Doesn't matter to me how he ended up there.

They are suing their employer for having sailed too close to the coastline. 400nm as opposed to the recommended 600nm? They were on their way to port in Kenya, weren't they?
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Old 10-09-2013
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Re: Capt. Phillips' Hero Status Put Into Question

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Originally Posted by JulieMor View Post
(Snip, movie review)
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Old 10-09-2013
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Re: Capt. Phillips' Hero Status Put Into Question

The lawsuit was filed years ago. The gist of the suit is that time pressures caused the Captain to sail closer to the Somali coast than was advisable due to recent pirate activity, and that the ship was ill equipped to defend itself in those dangerous waters.

As a plaintiff's attorney by day, even I have a hard time feeling sympathy for the plaintiffs in this suit. It is an extraordinary circumstance, for sure. And it may be that the Captain and/or his employer disregarded risks which placed the crew in danger. But, I have a hard time getting past the feeling that all's well that ends well. I understand that most of the crew was locked in an engine room during the entire time the pirates were on board. Now, if a crew member had been physically injured or killed, I might have a different viewpoint....
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Old 10-09-2013
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Re: Capt. Phillips' Hero Status Put Into Question

Captain Phillips Movie Trailer

Apparently he has a rep with merchant sailors.
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Re: Capt. Phillips' Hero Status Put Into Question

As a plaintiff's attorney by day, even I have a hard time feeling sympathy for the plaintiffs in this suit. It is an extraordinary circumstance, for sure. And it may be that the Captain and/or his employer disregarded risks which placed the crew in danger. But, I have a hard time getting past the feeling that all's well that ends

As a person who has been a commercial crew member I get jack to say about the course, cargo, or destination. It is the Captains responsibility to keep the ship and crew out of harms way at all times. His choice to deviate from advisories was an economic one which could have ended up much worse than it did. Nonetheless, I cannot leave the ship unless I am at a port. Captain along with MAERSK needs to be "retrained". In this world money will do the trick.
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Re: Capt. Phillips' Hero Status Put Into Question

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Originally Posted by AKscooter View Post
As a plaintiff's attorney by day, even I have a hard time feeling sympathy for the plaintiffs in this suit. It is an extraordinary circumstance, for sure. And it may be that the Captain and/or his employer disregarded risks which placed the crew in danger. But, I have a hard time getting past the feeling that all's well that ends

As a person who has been a commercial crew member I get jack to say about the course, cargo, or destination. It is the Captains responsibility to keep the ship and crew out of harms way at all times. His choice to deviate from advisories was an economic one which could have ended up much worse than it did. Nonetheless, I cannot leave the ship unless I am at a port. Captain along with MAERSK needs to be "retrained". In this world money will do the trick.
I get that. And, if you as a crew member had sustained a physical injury at the hands of the pirates, I believe you might have a legitimate claim--at least under my state's negligence law, which might be entirely irrelevant in this context.

But, if you are one of the crew members who locked themselves in the engine room as the pirates boarded, and only exited the room when the pirates departed, the question (under my state's law) is whether you are entitled to damages for any emotional distress you have suffered. Generally, it is difficult--under a negligence theory--to recover compensation for an emotional injury absent an accompanying physical injury.

Now, of course there would be a claim against the pirates if any U.S. court actually had jurisdiction, but good luck on that one....
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Old 10-09-2013
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Re: Capt. Phillips' Hero Status Put Into Question

Considering that there had been attacks primarily in the Gulf of Aden which led to the creation of the IRTC , it appears that whether one was 240 nm or 800 nm off the coast made little difference in 2009.
Here's the situation up until 2 days before the Maersk Alabama hijacking:


Lots of activity in the GoA, not much off the coast...and even so, pirates still had a long reach.
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Last edited by bljones; 10-09-2013 at 09:43 AM.
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Old 10-09-2013
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Re: Capt. Phillips' Hero Status Put Into Question

I want to know how the SEALS made the shot from a rolling ship to a rolling lifeboat. Are they equipped with platform stabilized sniper rifles? Was that shown in the movie?
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Re: Capt. Phillips' Hero Status Put Into Question

Phillips was interviewed (I think on 60 Minutes?), as were a couple of crew members. Phillips admitted he had received an email, warning him of pirates and advising him to stay well offshore, that he ignored the warning and that he did not share the information in the email with the crew.

Phillips said in the interview (and this was also in the movie) that he didn't think being 600nm or even 1,200nm from shore would make any difference. Don't pirate vessels, like all boats that run solely under power, have a limit as to how far they can travel? I wonder if these pirate vessels have the tankage that allows them to travel 2,500+nm?

I remember when the incident was initially broadcast, the media reported that Phillips had sacrificed himself by convincing the pirates to take him as hostage to save the crew. The movie showed Phillips entering the liferaft to instruct the pirates as to how to operate the vessel, while the crew held their pirate hostage at knifepoint. Then the crew releases their hostage who then enters the liferaft and decides to take Phillips hostage, much to everyone's surprise. Even kids know that you make a hostage exchange in such a way as to ensure something like that doesn't happen. Did it happen that way? I don't know. But it made Phillips, or the crew, look really dumb.

That was the first time I had heard or seen any version of the story other than that Phillips had volunteered himself as their hostage to save the crew. The crew members interviewed all said they were shocked to see Phillips portrayed as a hero. So it looks like the media created that story and ran with it. To the best of my knowledge, the movie was based on the book, so Phillips didn't adhere to the media story that made him look like a hero.

In the movie, the crew was also pressuring Phillips to go further out to sea. That's when he refused and replied no distance from shore would matter. At that time they had just had a close call with the same pirates who eventually boarded a day or two later.

Obviously the movie, the book, the media and reality may all tell different stories. But Phillips did admit he received notice to stay well offshore and that he ignored that warning. The crew claimed Phillips was trying to make port earlier than scheduled and that if they followed the original route the ship would have made port on time. According to the crew, there was no need to shorten the route.
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