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A U.S.-flagged and crewed merchant ship carrying food relief supplies to Kenya was boarded by Somali pirates earlier today some 350 miles off the African coast. According to the latest news reports, the crew has regained control of the ship, the Maersk Alabama, and the pirates have left but they are holding the captain hostage. Twelve members of the 20-person crew are members of the Seafarers (SIU) and the ship’s officers are members of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA) and Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P). When the pirates, armed with AK-47s, boarded the 730-foot vessel, the unarmed crew locked themselves in an area of the ship that contains the ship’s steering gear, second officer Ken Quinn told CNN in a ship-to-shore phone call. He said the crew had captured one of the pirates and, in negotiations with remaining pirates, agreed to exchange him for the release of the ship’s captain. But after the captured Somali was released, the pirates continued to hold the captain as of 4 p.m. EDT. continue reading

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