6 Misconceptions Caused by Film About Maersk Alabama Pirate Attack

For many movie goers, the recently released Tom Hanks film Captain Phillips is the first time they are learning about the alleged “details” of the Somalian pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama. Unfortunately, Hollywood’s version of the April 2009 attack is a highly inaccurate portrayal of the events which actually took place. These inaccuracies may have a detrimental effect on the lawsuit currently pending between several of the ship’s crew members and the ship’s owners. Neither Captain Phillips nor the owners of the ship should be praised following this attack. It is the brave men and women of the U.S. Merchant Marines who are the true heroes, risking their lives for the benefit of shipping companies that fail to adequately ensure their safety.

Why might Hollywood’s version of events ultimately harm the crew members in their lawsuit? Potential jury members, and the court of public opinion, may cast judgment on what actually happened based upon what was portrayed in the movie. The following are six misconceptions resulting from the recent movie:

  1. The lawsuit filed by the crew members is not a publicity stunt tied to the release of the film. The lawsuit was filed nearly three years prior to the conception of Captain Phillips. The defendants deliberately chose not to settle the lawsuit, likely knowing that the film could benefit their case.
  2. The real Captain Phillips is not the hero that is portrayed so well by Tom Hanks in the film. The facts surrounding the event, as told by witnesses, crew members, and based upon the communications between the Captain and the ship’s owners, reveal that Captain Phillips knowingly placed the lives of his crew in danger by sailing into dangerous waters in an effort to save time and money.
  3. The crew was not “lazy.” They are experienced seamen who were not provided with adequate security or means for defending themselves against pirate attacks, despite their employer sending them unarmed into some of the most dangerous waters in the world. The crew fought back valiantly against pirates who were armed with automatic weapons, using primitive tools, such as pieces of pipe.
  4. The Maersk Alabama pirate attack was not the result of an unlucky, unpredictable event. Captain Phillips and the ship’s owners received actual reports and warnings of pirate attacks in the area. They were warned to stay at least 600 miles from the Somalian shore, and instead opted to sail as close as 250 miles from shore. Further, there have been at least two other attempted attacks on the Maersk Alabama since 2009, clearly showing how dangerous this area is.
  5. The “heroic” actions by Captain Phillips described in the movie resulted in the need for a rescue by the U.S. Navy, with U.S. taxpayers and the federal government footing the bill.  This rescue would never have taken place if the ship had heeded the warnings that it received and sailed in safer waters.
  6. Since the attack, the ship owners have not compensated the true victims of the pirate attack, the crew members, nor has Maersk Line, Limited refunded U.S. taxpayer dollars used to pay for the rescue effort.

Unfortunately, the majority of moviegoers will not realize these inaccuracies after seeing the film unless they take it upon themselves to research the facts. This could ultimately prove detrimental to the crew members as they fight their legal battle with the ship’s owners in order to obtain the compensation that they deserve. For more on The Truth About Captain Phillips, contact VB Attorneys.


Brian Beckcom
Highest Possible 10/10 AVVO ranking. Husband. Father. Fisherman.