As players in a real-life pirate drama on the high seas off the eastern coast of Africa, an unarmed American crew overpowered a gang of Somali pirates and took back their vessel. However, when the ordeal had ended, the captain of the U.S. ship remained a hostage.
Capt. Richard Phillips surrendered himself to the pirates to secure the safety of the crew, The Associated Press reports.
"What I understand is that he offered himself as the hostage," said Gina Coggio, 29, half sister of Phillips' wife. "That is what he would do. It's just who he is and his response as a captain."
By the time a U.S. warship reached the Maersk Alabama, the entire 20-member crew had managed to regain control of their ship by capturing one of the pirates; they then negotiated their own release, according to AP.
Pirates are running rampant in the treacherous waters in the Indian Ocean, seizing six vessels in 66 attacks since January; they are still holding 14 ships and 260 crew members as hostages, according to the International Maritime Bureau, a watchdog group based in Kuala Lumpur.
“Somalia's 1,900-mile (3,057-kilometer) long coastline borders one of the world's busiest shipping lanes and offers a perfect haven to the heavily armed pirate gangs,” according to AP. “They often dress in military fatigues and use GPS systems and satellite phones to coordinate attacks from small, fast speedboats resupplied by a larger ‘mother ship.’ "