Posts Tagged Maersk-Alabama

Maritime Security: Two Trident Group Contractors Found Dead On The Maersk Alabama

Traces of narcotics and hypodermic needles found with the bodies of two American security officers on the container ship Maersk Alabama suggested the deaths resulted from drug overdoses, a Seychelles government official told CNN on Thursday. -CNN

Sad deal. This is the second death report I have done here on the blog recently, and this is never fun to put out there. My heart goes out to the friends and family of the fallen.

As to the cause, the Seychelles government says there were narcotics and hypodermic needles found with the bodies. If true, perhaps heroin was the cause of death? I say this drug, just because there has been an increase in heroin related deaths in the US and around the world. Most notably the actor Seymour Hoffman just died from a heroin overdose. The only way to confirm that these guys died from an overdose or from tainted drugs is through an autopsy.

Also, where did the drugs come from? Were they locally bought when they came into port or did they transport them from the US? Who knows…

What is significant is the company reaction, which leads me to believe that they know more than what is openly being said. Here is the quote:

The Maersk Alabama’s owner, the Norfolk, Va.-based Maersk Line Ltd. also has said the deaths were not related to security duties or ship operations. The ship has since left the African port. Speers statement says the company has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drugs and alcohol, and that based on past experience working with The Trident Group, it believes this is an isolated incident.
Still, the company is responding by requiring reviewing its personnel records to confirm that drug tests and background checks are current, among other things. Speer said The Trident Group will also implement a random drug testing program to increase the frequency it screens security personnel.

There is a problem with drug screening and contracting that needs to be emphasized here. If guys know that they will be tested as a requirement of work, then they will simply not take the contract until they are clean. When they accept the contract they know they are ready to take the test the company gives ‘randomly’, because they waited an adequate amount of time for the drugs to clear the body. That is the problem with drug testing and independent contractors. You might get a clean contractor upon hiring, but have no idea about their history.  That, and as soon as they pass the test, they go right back into drug use mode when they get on that contract. That’s if they have access to those drugs and they are not able to control their craving or dependence.

The same goes for alcohol. Companies do not test for alcohol and it is very difficult for companies to maintain a ‘zero tolerance’ for alcohol use out in the field, if their leaders don’t care. Or the leaders are drinking as well, and could care less about the policy. It all goes back to how strong of a leadership program the company has, and are the leaders in the field truly aligned with the company’s policies/strategies/goals?

Back to the dynamics of contracting, if these guys are actual employees that are employed ‘full time’ with the company, then I could see random drug tests as being effective. They could administer the things at any time, and know that they could truly catch those folks. But still, people are all the same, and they will always find a way to bypass these tests. Or the leaders out in the field could care less about what the company wants and will give a heads up to the guys that a test is coming.

You know, I can’t emphasize enough how damaging that kind of environment is. Weak leaders, or leaders that could care less about holding their people accountable, is a recipe for disaster when it comes drugs or alcohol. Fitzsimmons comes to mind as a reminder of why contracting and alcohol doesn’t mix. Or the AGNA episode. Or the Jorge Scientific video.

Another thing to remember is that some tests are not able to pick up all drugs. Or certain drugs are taken by contractors because they do not last in the body, which makes it easy to play the system. For example, there are some types of steroids that last in the body for 4 days. So a contractor could do a cycle, and time it for when they would be accepting a contract, and then they would take the drug test at the right time when they are clean.

Then of course there is the management of contractors and being aware of the signs of drug and alcohol use. Does the company’s leaders pay attention to this stuff, or are they looking the other way?  Who knows what happened in this deal, but if guys are standing post on a ship and high on drugs or drunk, then that just doesn’t sit well with fellow guards or the client. It’s the type of thing that gets people killed or it leads to companies losing contracts and gaining poor reputations.

I also want to talk about that last part. Reputation is everything, and the competition out there is fierce. There are numerous companies worldwide, all fighting for contracts in the maritime security industry, and the members of these companies can sometimes act pretty negatively (trash talking) towards other companies that are on the skyline.

Trident Group was the victim of this kind of trash talking after their contractors were involved in a shooting incident awhile back. The video of the incident went viral and numerous companies and contractors out there were trying to depict the men involved as out of control, even though they had no idea about the context of what was seen. That the boat had actually been attacked by the same pirate group twice in 72 hours! But hey, Trident Group still had a peanut gallery out there trying to talk down the company and make them out to be reckless or out of control.

With this current incident, this just gives the competition the ammunition they need to steal Trident Group’s business. That is the reality of it, and the speed of new media and social networking is relentless when it comes to spreading rumor or half truths.

Although with this particular contract, Maersk owes the Navy SEALs big time for the rescue of Capt Phillips, complete with a movie to document the whole thing. Given that quote about the company’s response to this incident, I imagine they are doing all they can to restore Maersk’s trust in the contractors they send out to protect them. I hope the company is taking a good look at it’s leadership out in the field as well.

When the autopsy comes up, I will make the edit. A big hat tip to everyone that contacted me via Facebook and sent me emails about this. I don’t think I have ever had that many people forward a story like that, and this really was some unique news for our industry. Everyone was trying to give me the heads up on this and I really appreciate that. -Matt

 

 

Drugs on Maersk ship where 2 ex-SEALs died
February 20, 2014
Drugs were in the room where two former Navy SEALs were found dead aboard the Maersk Alabama, a ship that was the focus of a 2009 hijacking dramatized in the movie “Captain Phillips,” a company spokesman said Thursday.
Police from the African island nation of Seychelles have given no cause of death for Mark Daniel Kennedy, 43, and Jeffrey Keith Reynolds, 44. The Americans were security contractors who were found dead Tuesday in a cabin on the ship while berthed in Port Victoria in the Indian Ocean.
“We are saddened by the tragedy and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the deceased men,” Maersk Line Ltd. spokesman Kevin Speers said in a statement.
Speers said the Seychelles police report includes observations about the presence of drugs and paraphernalia in the room where the two men were found dead, although the type of drug is unknown.
On Thursday, police spokesman Jean Toussaint, noted that officials were awaiting autopsies and said, “As far as I know there is no evidence of physical trauma” on either man’s body. Speers said the Maersk Alabama was cleared to leave Seychelles following the onboard investigation and that it is already underway.
The Maersk Alabama is a Norfolk, Va.-based container ship that provides feeder service to the east coast of Africa and employs security contractors to provide anti-piracy services. The two men who were found dead worked for a Virginia Beach, Va.-based maritime security firm, The Trident Group.
In a statement posted on its website, The Trident Group President Thomas Rothrauff said there “is no immediate indication as to the cause of death, but the deaths were not caused by operational activity.” Rothrauff wrote that the next of kin have asked that no further information be released and that their privacy be respected.
The Maersk Alabama’s owner, the Norfolk, Va.-based Maersk Line Ltd. also has said the deaths were not related to security duties or ship operations. The ship has since left the African port. Speers statement says the company has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drugs and alcohol, and that based on past experience working with The Trident Group, it believes this is an isolated incident.
Still, the company is responding by requiring reviewing its personnel records to confirm that drug tests and background checks are current, among other things. Speer said The Trident Group will also implement a random drug testing program to increase the frequency it screens security personnel.
The Trident Group was founded by former Navy SEALs and hires former special warfare operators to perform security. On Thursday, the Navy confirmed that Kennedy and Reynolds belonged to the SEALs, an elite unit of the military’s special operations forces who are sometimes called upon to combat piracy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Film: Go See Captain Phillips!

Finally, a film that I can rejoice about. I wrote about this film back in 2011 and I have been anxiously anticipating it’s release ever since. I was not disappointed either and I highly recommend this film.

For those that are not familiar with this incident, here is a quick snippet from wikipedia.

The Maersk Alabama hijacking was a series of maritime events that began with four pirates in the Indian Ocean seizing the cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama 240 nautical miles (440 km; 280 mi) southeast of the port city of Eyl, Somalia. The siege ended after a rescue effort by the U.S. Navy on 12 April 2009. It was the first successful pirate seizure of a ship registered under the American flag since the early 19th century.It was the sixth vessel in a week to be attacked by pirates who had previously extorted ransoms in the tens of millions of dollars.

The story of the incident was reported in the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea (2010) by Stephan Talty and Captain Richard Phillips, who had been master of the vessel at the time of the incident. The hijacking also inspired the 2013 film Captain Phillips, with Tom Hanks playing Richard Phillips in the title role, Barkhad Abdi playing Abduwali Muse and Faysal Ahmed playing Najee.

What is unique about this film is that the audience already knows what has happened, so the directors/actors/writers all had to make a movie about the journey or story, and make it compelling enough to keep the audience’s attention. I believe this film accomplished this task. The director Paul Greengrass is also famous for directing the Bourne movies, and you can totally see that style of film making in this film.

For Captain Philips, Tom Hank’s performance and portrayal of the man was excellent. He did not over act the thing, and you really got a sense of the frustration and fear he and the crew experienced prior too and during this incident. The last scene of the movie was especially gut wrenching, and this performance among others will make this movie a strong contender for the Academy Awards. (six nominations by the way…)

The other star of this film is the Somali pirates. The movie did an excellent job of summarizing what drives these pirates and not choosing a political angle. At first I thought they would justify why these pirates are doing what they are doing because of a lack of fish or some other lame excuse. That these were ‘poor fishermen’ and all the fish have been removed by larger commercial operations so they had to turn to piracy.

Nope, the pirates mentioned this angle briefly as an excuse, but at the end of the day, a pirate is a pirate. And you see the Captain Phillips character go through this arc of perception of his captors as well. At the end of the day, he came to the right conclusion that these were greedy and violent men, bent on doing whatever it took to get the job done. So I was glad that the movie portrayed these guys correctly, yet still gave you something to think about as to their reasoning for being pirates.

Which by the way, the Somali pirate leader Muse was played by Somali actor Barkhad Abdi and he did an outstanding job! He played the role perfectly as a ‘Captain Ahab style leader‘, driven to capture his whale called the Maersk Alabama. Barkhad is also an Academi Award nominee.

I have been following the maritime security industry for the last couple of years, ever since piracy became a huge deal. The Maersk Alabama hijacking brought some seriously needed attention to the matter. It is just one incident of many, that really drove my thoughts and opinions on what needed to happen in the maritime security industry. That less than lethal was a joke when it came to dealing with pirates armed with RPG’s and AK 47’s.

As I watched the film I kept thinking that these guys needed armed guards–which was my mantra back when this first came out in the news. If anything, this incident got the ball rolling as to why armed guards are so important, and the film did an excellent job of showing why. I am sure the audience came to the same conclusions as well.

To that point, it was the outstanding accuracy and cunning of the Navy SEAL sniper team that ended this ordeal. I thought this aspect of the movie was well played, and proportional. The SEAL aspect of this film did not drown out the Somali pirate crew story or the Maersk Alabama crew and captain story. It was all equal parts of the story, as it should be.

I was also taken aback by the enormity of the shipping ports and these vessels. The actual Maersk Alabama vessel was used in this film, thanks to Maersk, and the US Navy contributed aircraft and vessels as well for this film. All of it added realistic detail to the film and made it very believable. You actually felt like you were there with Captain Phillips and the pirates and the Navy SEALs, as they all were living through such horrible and complex ordeal.

A big hat tip to director Paul Greengras and executive producer Kevin Spacey, and the rest of the crew/actors/writers for getting this movie made. This thing gets a big Feral Jundi thumbs up and definitely check it out on the big screen if you can! -Matt

Buy the DVD box set on Amazon here.

Facebook page for film here.

Official page of the film here.

 

Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi and Paul Greengrass.

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Maritime Security: The Maersk Alabama Drawing Pirates Like Flies, And Armed Security Saves The Day

     Actually, this story is factually incorrect. (check out the comments at gCaptain’s post) Boy, The Maersk Alabama has been attacked and/or approached by pirates multiple times since the first attack that put it on the news.  I don’t know if the pirates are all gunning for the ship to get some pay back or there are just more pirates now? I do know that armed security along with good strategy is doing an excellent job of defeating these thugs.

    From what I can gather, Nexus Consulting is the security company that the Maersk Alabama uses for protective services. Although I could be wrong here, because the Maersk line uses all sorts of different security companies. -Matt

Pirates Fail in Third Attempt to Seize Maersk Alabama

Peter T. Leach

Mar 9, 2011

Security team fires warning shots, discouraging suspicious skiff

Suspected Somali pirates tried to seize the Maersk Alabama again on Tuesday in the third attempt to hijack it in three years.

Four people suspected of being pirates approached the ship in a skiff in which a hook ladder could be seen. When the skiff came within half a nautical mile, the ship’s captain authorized the firing of warning shots.

“Maersk Alabama was approached by a suspicious skiff with four people and a ladder onboard,” said Kevin Speers a spokesman for Maersk Line Limited, the U.S.-flag subsidiary of Denmark’s Maersk Line.

“The captain followed the appropriate protocol and authorized an embarked security team to fire warning shots in order for the pirates to turn away. Shortly after, the small boat departed the area astern of the vessel,” Speers said in a statement.

Tuesday’s attempted hijacking was the third time pirates have tried to seize the U.S.-flag container ship. The first two attempts occurred in 2009.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Maritime Security: Maersk-Alabama Gets Attacked Again by Pirates, Security Contractors Repel the Assault

“This is a great example of how merchant mariners can take proactive action to prevent being attacked and why we recommend that ships follow industry best practices if they’re in high-risk areas,” Gortney said in a statement.

However, Roger Middleton, a piracy expert at the London-based think tank Chatham House, said the international maritime community was still “solidly against” armed guards aboard vessels at sea, but that American ships have taken a different line than the rest of the international community. 

*****

   If I knew what company was being contracted to provide the security, I would totally credit them in this deal.  So if any of the readers have a clue, let me know and I will edit this thing.  Bravo to the security team for sticking it to these booger eaters. Also, I think Mr. Middleton should re-think his opinion on armed guards.  Every company out there has the right to defend itself, and in the face of this threat, bad language or LRADs do not work.  Pirates only understand the language of superior firepower. -Matt

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Maersk-Alabama Repels Suspected Pirate Attack

November 18, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease #195-09

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Schaeffer

MANAMA, Bahrain – Motor Vessel (M/V) Maersk-Alabama came under attack from suspected pirates today at 6:30 a.m. local time while transiting 560 nautical miles off the northeast coast of Somalia.

Four suspected pirates in a skiff came within 300 yards of M/V Maersk-Alabama and used small arms weapons in an attempt to board the ship.

The security team embarked aboard Maersk-Alabama responded to the attack by using evasive maneuvers, Long-Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) and small arms fire, causing the suspected pirates to break off their attack.

“Due to Maersk Alabama following maritime industry’s best-practices such as embarking security teams, the ship was able to prevent being successfully attacked by pirates,” said Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. “This is a great example of how merchant mariners can take pro-active action to prevent being attacked and why we recommend that ships follow industry best practices if they’re in high-risk areas.”

No injuries or damage were reported aboard M/V Maersk-Alabama.

M/V Maersk-Alabama is proceeding to the ship’s initial destination of Mombasa, Kenya.

Suspected Somali pirates briefly seized M/V Maersk-Alabama off the coast of Somalia on April 8 and held the ship’s skipper, Capt. Richard Phillips, hostage for five days on a skiff. U.S. naval forces rescued Phillips on April 12, killing three suspected pirates and taking one into custody.

Story link here.

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Vice Adm. Bill Gortney of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said the Maersk Alabama had followed the maritime industry’s “best practices” in having a security team on board.

“This is a great example of how merchant mariners can take proactive action to prevent being attacked and why we recommend that ships follow industry best practices if they’re in high-risk areas,” Gortney said in a statement.

However, Roger Middleton, a piracy expert at the London-based think tank Chatham House, said the international maritime community was still “solidly against” armed guards aboard vessels at sea, but that American ships have taken a different line than the rest of the international community.

Read the rest here.

 

 

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