Crewmember on Pirated Freighter Sues

A crew member of a cargo ship hijacked by pirates is suing the owner of the vessel. He claims the company knowingly put the crew in harm's way. It is the first lawsuit of its kind filed here in Harris County against a company for not protecting its employees against piracy. Pat Hernandez has the story.

Richard Hicks was the chief cook onboard the Maersk Alabama when it came under attack by pirates earlier this month off the coast of Somalia.

“I fear for my life and they had us in a secluded room. We stayed back there for about 12-hours, it was about 125-degrees and I didn’t know if I was going to live or die.”

The Florida resident filed suit against his employer, alleging that the ship’s owner did not take proper precautions against piracy on the high seas.

“I had heard that they had came after us and we outran them. The second time, we had a drill and we could see them right off the stern, but the captain had [sped] the ship up and we got away. That was a Tuesday. It was Wednesday morning about seven o’clock, they came to me and said we’re being approached by pirates.”

The ship’s captain was taken and hostage for five days. He was freed after U.S. Navy snipers took out his three captors.

“Houston is a great place. They’re many people in the shipping industry here. The defendants have a big presence here. It’s absolutely the best place to file.”

image of Terry Bryant

Houston attorney Terry Bryant says his client is seeking 75-thousand dollars for pain and suffering.

“The kind of figure that we ask for in this petition, is the minimum amount that we would want for one day of basically of security. So, we want to make sure that our client and the members of the crew(s) have a safe work place.” 

The owner of the vessel, Waterman Steam Ship Corporation said it does not comment on pending lawsuits.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.