Crew took training on piracy

Members of hijacked ship studied in Maryland

April 10, 2009|By Matt Zapotosky and Jenna Johnson | Matt Zapotosky and Jenna Johnson,Washington Post

At least 14 of the 20 officers and crew aboard the U.S. container ship hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean Wednesday attended union-run maritime schools in Maryland, and many received classroom training on how to handle a pirate or terrorist attack, school and union officials said Thursday.

Nine of the twelve members of the Seafarers International Union who were aboard the Maersk Alabama attended the union's maritime school in the St. Mary's County town of Piney Point, the school's education director said.

All five members of the Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association attended its school in Easton, a union official said.

It was not clear if the other three crew members, who belong to the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, attended its school in Linthicum Heights.

The maritime academies are essentially colleges for sailors.

Students from around the world come to them to learn everything from how to cook a meal at sea to how to maintain a boat engine, officials said. Nearly all students receive maritime security training, which includes lessons on piracy. Some receive small firearms training, officials said.

Most security classes are lecture-based, providing students with advice on how to avoid confrontations with pirates rather than negotiate their way out of hostage situations, officials said.

Lessons include sailing in a zigzag so it's difficult for the pirates to board, locking up the ship's infrastructure so the pirates can't take control of it and fighting the pirates off using high-pressure fire hoses.

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