One of the keynote speakers at the International WorkBoat Show — held December 3 to 5 in New Orleans — was Richard Phillips, the former captain of the MV Maersk Alabama, a container ship that was hijacked by pirates April 8, 2009 off the coast of Somalia. Phillips was taken hostage and rescued by the U.S. Navy on April 12. His presentation described events before, during, and after the hijacking, and he provided several interesting details in a Q&A session following his prepared speech.
The story of the incident is described in a 2010 book, A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea, by Stephan Talty and Phillips. It is also covered in a movie released last year, Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks. I saw the movie a few days before leaving for New Orleans, so it was still fresh in my mind. And I won’t spoil the plot of book or movie by revealing any details here.
In addition to his experiences, the keynote also described some of the emotions Phillips went through. He said it was essential that he had adopted a never-give-up attitude to get him through his ordeal. I remember several times in the movie where I probably would not have had the strength to carry on the way Phillips did. But he said he didn’t think he had more strength or courage than any of us in the audience would’ve had under the same circumstances. He said that if any of us had encountered the same life-or-death situations, we probably would’ve been able to find the same inner strength to survive.
Phillips described a personal revelation that gave him the inspiration to never give up no matter what the challenge. He said his wife normally spent time with him at the airport whenever he left on one of his excursions. But at the beginning of this particular trip, they were running late, so she just dropped him off at the airport. He said that if anything happened to him, he knew his wife would never forgive herself for not spending time with him at the beginning of this trip. He said that thought inspired him to keep persevering and made him realize that once you give up it’s all over.
But attending a show is not a life-or-death situation, so I figured it would be okay for me to call it quits after a long day and head back to my hotel room a half hour before the show closed to rest my weary feet.