04.22.09

Remarks of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy Resolution On Captain Richard Phillips, The U.S. Navy, And International Piracy

As Prepared

Later today, I will introduce -- along with Senator Gregg of New Hampshire, Feingold of Wisconsin, Kennedy and Kerry of Massachusetts, and Sanders of Vermont -- a Senate Resolution on Captain Richard Phillips, the ship captain from Underhill, Vermont, who Somali pirates took hostage two weeks ago.  The resolution praises Captain Phillips for his selfless heroism, his extraordinary rescuers, his family, and the Federal agencies that kept close watch on the Captain while the pirates held him at gun-point in an 18-foot lifeboat in the middle of the Indian Ocean.   

This situation was an all-too-real drama that played out on the high seas.  With grappling hooks and guns, Somali pirates took control of Phillips’ ship the Maersk Alabama.  The 20-member crew of the 500-foot container ship retook control after a harrowing struggle.  To protect his crew from further danger, Captain Phillips agreed to go with the pirates into a lifeboat where he was held hostage for five days. 

Displaying a resourcefulness and indomitable spirit that speaks to the best qualities of Vermont, New England, and our Nation, he attempted escape.   He kept his cool and confidence in the most volatile situation where the pirates could easily have killed him.   

The U.S. Navy arrived—headed up by the guided missile destroyer U.S.S. Bainbridge—and, when the Captain faced imminent danger, snipers from one of our most elite military units, the Navy SEALs, killed his captors. 

The entire country has shared feelings of admiration for the courage and fortitude of Captain Phillips, relief that he and the Maersk Alabama crew are safely home, and gratitude for the outstanding performance of the U.S. Navy, and particularly the Bainbridge crew and the SEALS, for their rescue of Captain Phillips.  

The Maersk Alabama incident is part a troubling pattern of piracy that comes from the anarchy and poverty plaguing Somalia.  Pirates have taken hostage more than two hundred crew members from dozens of countries.   They have absconded with tens of millions of dollars in ransom, reinvesting that money into more advanced equipment and weapons, from guns to rocket-propelled grenades to global positioning systems.  The scale and intensity of the piracy is only getting worse, and, as this resolution underscores, piracy must be addressed. 

But on that Wednesday, those pirates met their match, from Captain Phillips and his crew, to the remarkable Phillips family to the formidable U.S. military and the wider U.S. Government.   

The President monitored the situation closely and gave the necessary direction to the SEALs to use force if required to protect Phillips.  The FBI provided guidance to the U.S.S. Bainbridge to deal with the hostage situation, while the Department of State kept the family informed.   

Andrea Phillips, Captain Phillips’ wife, was incredible throughout the crisis.   I talked with her on several occasions, and she repeatedly thanked the Navy personnel, the FBI, and others for keeping such close tabs on the situation.  Even though this was an especially difficult experience for the Phillips’s two children, Daniel and Mariah, they weathered the crisis and had a happy reunion. 

The reunions last week, with the crew arriving at Andrews Air Force Base, Phillips stepping off the plane at the Burlington, Vermont Airport, were moments of joy and relief.  The country is so proud of these Americans who certainly did not want to be at the center of an international crisis, but who rose to the occasion with a strength and bravery that represents the best of our country.   

With this resolution, we commend Phillips and his family, the crew of the Maersk Alabama, and the United States Armed Forces and the Navy SEALS for their heroism.

Mr. President, this resolution has one message above all others -- Welcome Home! 

# # # # #

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693