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Father Of Crew Member On Hijacked Ship Weighs In


Today, a dramatic story off the coast of Somalia. A group of pirates in small boats attacked and briefly seized control of a US-flagged cargo ship. The Maersk Alabama was carrying food aid to Kenya. The crew of 20 Americans now appears to have turned the tables on the pirates, and several crewmembers have since called family members, using the ship's satellite phone.


Joseph Murphy is an instructor at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. He's also the father of the ship's second in command, Shane Murphy. Joseph Murphy joins us now from Massachusetts. Thank you, sir, for talking to us this afternoon.

Captain JOSEPH MURPHY (Professor, Massachusetts Maritime Academy): You're welcome.

NORRIS: What is the latest that you have heard right now?

Capt. MURPHY: Well, at this point my son called his wife and he told her that he was safe and that the crew was safe and - but they - he thought that the process was going to have a favorable ending. I've heard subsequent reports that the captain of the ship is still being held, but that the crew is safe. So, I'm not really sure exactly if it's completed but, you know, there's American military in route and I think that we're going to see this result itself fairly quickly.

NORRIS: Have you had a chance to talk to Shane?

Capt. MURPHY: No, I have not. He called, first call that he made, he made to his wife just to tell her that he was alive and that he was safe. And immediately after that they had apparently over-powered several of the pirates. And he indicated that they were safe and that they had taken one of the pirates into custody. So, that was the extent of his conversation. I tried calling him and I'm afraid that he's out of range. I haven't been able to get a hold of him. And his wife, my daughter-in-law, is of course been inundated with phone calls so, she's not answering her phone.

NORRIS: Now, your son is 34, is that correct?

Capt. MURPHY: 34 years old, yes.

NORRIS: And he was on a 17,000 ton cargo ship.

Capt. MURPHY: That's correct.

NORRIS: And as I understand that he had some training…

Capt. MURPHY: Yes.

NORRIS: …for how to deal with pirates, if something like this happened. What kind of training?

Capt. MURPHY: Yes. He's had terrorism training, which is - piracy is just one element of that training. He's had training in small arms and he's had small arms tactics training. In addition, he's the lead person in the ship security team and he's drilled many times on this very same type of scenario.

NORRIS: Do you do any of this training yourself?

Capt. MURPHY: I do. I teach this course. That's Murphy's Law, isn't it? I teach Maritime Security. I have my son come in and talk about it and then he gets hijacked.

NORRIS: You know, sir, it's actually amazing that you have a sense of humor at a moment like this.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Capt. MURPHY: Well, I think he's - I think he's safe. So, I think that it's good. I just - I'm a little concerned about Captain Phillips at this point.

NORRIS: Yeah, yeah. This obviously is of great concern to you, why is this such a difficult problem to get a hold on. There have been so many ships that have been caught particularly in that area, in the Gulf of Aden.

Capt. MURPHY: Yeah. Well, piracy exists in areas around the world where there are weak or corrupt governments and obviously Somalia is - fits that category, that description. They actually make more money in piracy than they do for the gross national product of the country. So, it's not going to go away anytime soon.

NORRIS: Well sir, thank you very much for talking to us.

Capt. MURPHY: Thank you.

NORRIS: You told us that you haven't had a chance to talk with your son but I hope that conversation will take place and soon.

Capt. MURPHY: Yes. Well, we are too. Thank you very much.

NORRIS: That was Captain John Murphy. He is a professor in the Marine Transportation Department at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. His son Shane is the chief officer on board the Maersk Alabama, a vessel that was attacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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