A crew member of the recently attacked Maersk Alabama is
now suing his employer.
Chief cook Richard Hooks, asserting that his employer and another company knowing put the crew in danger, is seeking $75,000 in damages and improved safety.
Somali pirates attacked the US-flagged Maersk Alabama on April 8, 2009. It's captain was seized and held hostage for several days, receiving widespread media attention, until US Navy Seals shot his captors. Based in Norfolk, VA, its crew was comprised of 20 US nationals.
Reportedly, owners are jittery at damages they could face, particularly from US courts, which can award plaintiffs substantial sums.
Fear of US lawsuits and similar concerns with avoiding governmental regulation and supervision have long made maritime shippers "jittery." Precisely to evade these threats, shippers have chosen flags of convenience and shell corporations from weakly regulated countries. Crews typically are impoverished Filipinos or from other Third World countries.
The US flagged, based, and crewed Maersk Alabama is very much the rare exception. US courts would have far greater difficulty in securing jurisdiction over foreign flagged, based, and crewed ships.
Compared to the threat of lawyers, what are a few pirates? Shippers may be vulnerable prey off the coast of Somalia, but we think these lawsuits are attacks they can avoid.