NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - The true story of what happened when Somali pirates hijacked the MAERSK Alabama in 2009 and took Captain Phillips hostage is one we may never know, at least not entirely. Some of it will be kept secret under the veil of "national security interest,” but nine seamen from the crew are preparing to go to court with their version of the story.
Since the release of the Tom Hanks blockbuster "Captain Phillips," there is a mutiny in progress. In lawsuits filed in Alabama and Texas about half of the crew say the heroic image of Captain Richard Phillips is "one big lie."
"His reputation is not as a safety conscious Captain,” said attorney Brian Beckom. “He didn't give himself up for the crew. He admitted that in his book that he wrote."
Houston attorney Brian Beckom represents the crew members, who are suing MAERSK Lines, LTD and the Waterman Steamship Company – the Norfolk-based shipping companies that own the Alabama. His clients claim that Captain Richard Phillips' actions amounted to "willful and wanton disregard for their safety"
"...there's no difference between what this shipping company did in this case and driving a boat into the middle of a hurricane,” Beckom said.
According to crew members, Captain Phillips ignored maritime advisories to stay at least 600 miles off the coast of Somalia, due to increased piracy activity in the area at that time.
"Why would they do that? Why would they put these men in danger, knowing that they didn't have adequate protection? The only answer that we've been able to come up with so far is that it saved them time and it saved them money,” Beckom said.
Captain Phillips spoke on the matter as a guest on the Today Show.
"If you're gonna be in the Merchant Marines, you will deal with piracy. Firemen have to go into burning houses. Policemen have to deal with violent situations. Merchant Marines have to deal with piracy,” Phillips said on the show.
“He made the calls on the scene to take care of the ship,” said John Reinhart, President and CEO of MAERSK Lines, LTD. “I think other than that, I would say I believe the cases are meritless and that we should just let the court cases handle themselves and let all the depositions and legal process go.”
"MAERSK has thrown everything they've got at this case,” Beckom said. “They've filed more motions and tried to move this case to all different places. They've appealed the case twice to the Texas Supreme Court, and they've lost every time."
Attorney Brian Beckom told WAVY.com he will be in Norfolk next week for a deposition from the security director of MAERSK. He also says the crew members wanted this case to go forward long before the movie was released.
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