The Real Captain Phillips to Dock in Jefferson County

The real Captain Phillips, the man about whom the Academy Award-nominated movie starring Tom Hanks was made, will be the third speaker in the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Speaker Series.

Richard Phillips, who was captain of the Maersk Alabama when the seafaring cargo ship was hijacked by Somali pirates in April 2009, is scheduled to appear at 7:30 p.m. April 3 in the Steubenville High School Auditorium.

His book, “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs an Dangerous Days at Sea” was the inspiration for the critically acclaimed, award-winning film.

“We are certain Phillips will provide an interesting presentation and offer insight to the incidents surrounding the capture of the ship by pirates and his standoff with his captors,” said Rich DeLuca, president of the chamber. “We’re excited to be able to present him as the third speaker in our series.”

Phillips was captured by pirates who hijacked the Maersk Alabama, the first hijacking of a U.S. ship in more than 200 years. Four pirates took control of the ship with its cargo of food aid to Africa on April 8, 2009. Many of the crew scrambled into a safe room aboard the ship, but Phillips and three other crewmen were held at gunpoint on the bridge. The remainder of the 20-member crew managed to wound and hold the leader of the band of pirates and demanded the others leave the ship. The pirates, who had scuttled their own small boat, demanded an escape boat, food and fuel.

Phillips, who had made the decision to protect his crew, offered himself as a hostage. Once he and the pirates had settled into one of the ship’s covered lifeboats, the Maersk Alabama crew tried to trade the captured pirate for their captain. When the crew released the pirate, the remaining pirates refused to honor their commitment and fled with Phillips. He was held hostage in the small lifeboat with the pirates with little hope to cling to, except the knowledge that he had done everything he could to save the lives of his crew.

The Navy responded and negotiations began between the pirates and officials aboard the USS Bainbridge. On April 10, Phillips jumped from the lifeboat and swam a few yards toward the nearby destroyer, but he was recaptured by the pirates. The standoff dragged on until April 12, when SEAL snipers determined Phillips was in imminent danger, eliminated the pirates and rescued Phillips. He was hailed as a hero for surviving his ordeal.

The film “Captain Phillips” has been nominated for several Academy Awards, including best picture, best supporting actor, best adapted screenplay, sound mixing, sound editing and film editing.

Reserved-seat tickets are $20 each for the April 3 appearance by Phillips. The tickets went on sale today at 8 a.m. A limited number of VIP packages is available by contacting the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce at 740-282-6226

Area high school students will have the opportunity to see the presentation free of charge thanks to the Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley, which has purchased more than 300 general admission tickets.