Video: First mate who battled Somali pirates pushes for more security

Gal Tziperman Lotan

What do you do when the captain of your cargo ship, who was kidnapped by Somali pirates, comes home safely?

Shane Murphy of Seekonk, the first mate on the Maersk Alabama, began playing a Lynyrd Skynyrd song.

“I always call that ship the ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ that’s my home when I’m not on land,” he said. “We were playing that and shooting off some flares in celebration. It was probably the most joy I had throughout this whole thing, when we found out that he was alright.”

Now back in Massachusetts, Murphy attended the Quincy Point Congregational Church maritime festival Saturday with his family.

“Mostly, I’m trying to put that in the past and focusing on making changes right now,” he said. “My biggest concern now is that there are guys still being held hostage, and ships are attacked every day.”

Murphy, 33, is working with Senator John Kerry’s office to ensure the routes going by Somalia are safe.

“Whether they’re American or international [ships], it makes no difference,” he said. “It all has an effect on everybody here in America because it’s global commerce.”

If shipping routes around the coast of Somalia were closed, companies shipping to the United States would have to seek longer alternate routes, which would raise the price of goods, Murphy said.

Murphy graduated from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in 2001, shortly before the Sept. 11 attacks, and said he received little training on how to handle attacks at sea.

Current Maritime Academy students are trained on pirate and terrorist attacks, he said.

“They’re going to be coming out ahead of the game, which is great,” he said.

Murphy received training from his union and learned the rest on the job, mostly through conversations with Captain Richard Phillips, who was held hostage on a pirate lifeboat for five days.

“I learned a lot from Captain Phillips, he has a really good military mind,” he said.

When Murphy came within a few feet of being captured by the pirates, he said he though of his wife, Serena, and their sons Dylan, 3, and Jason, who will celebrate his first birthday in July.

“What was going through my head was ‘geez, I’d like to see my boys again and spend some time with them,’” he said.

Right now, Murphy is focusing on spending time with his family.

“I plan on sailing again,” he said. “That’s what I do. Right now, I’m trying to avoid big, life-changing decisions. I just went through a pretty stressful event, my family went through a stressful event. I’m trying to just relax, have fun.”

The family’s home in Seakonk has had pirate toys and memorabilia for years, Murphy said.

“I guess we’re kind of American pirates by default,” he joked. “My uncle has an eye patch.”

The Patriot Ledger