Much in the news this week about the hijacked American Ship headed for Somalia with a load of supplies for the people of that country. We are hearing just how pervasive this mode of operation is for the terrorist of that region.


According to the news, several Pirates (terrorists) boarded the ship, pulling along side in a high powered speed boat which sank. After boarding the American vessel, they kidnapped the ship’s Captain, who, as the news reports volunteered to go instead of crew member. The hijacker left with the ship’s Captain on one of the ship’s lifeboats at gunpoint.


I must say, I have traveled via ocean liners several times during my life. My first trip was from Seattle to Yohohama aboard the USS Gaffey which was a two week trip. Then, I took another two week trip aboard another ship upon my return to the US.


While living in Japan, I boarded the US Breckenbridge from Yokohama to Okinawa, for a three week visit with friends there.


Another time, I worked aboard the French Luxury liner the Ille De France during the filming of the movie, “The Last Voyage,” starring Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone. An American film company, headed by film director Andrew Stone had purchased the rights to film aboard the ship, docked off the coast of Osaka, Japan.


This was a fascinating experience. The ship was practically demolished. It was set on fire, and then sank. The theme of the film was to show how most ship captains were unequipped to handle a disaster when faced with a crisis aboard a ship. The ship’s captain was played by the very talented actor, George Sanders. His role was portrayed as one quite adept at handling all the social activities of the passengers, but faced with life and death disaster, he simply failed to rise to the leadership required for the safety of the passengers.  Unable to make rational decisions, crew members were left to make life saving decisions. The Captain had abandoned his responsibilities.



The moral to the story was about ineffective leadership by the Captain of a ship, during a time faced with serious danger to the ship, crew and passengers.


I recalled this movie and the story line, when I heard the news about the Captain of the hijacked ship’s decision to be captured in place of his crew member.


According to many psychologists, we as human beings always act according to our highest values at the moment, and we in fact act for a profit or a gain. Despite the fact our actions may result in a loss.


For example, a man is walking across a tall bridge when he sees someone jump into the cold swift waters below. The onlooker dives in to rescue, but loses his life from the jump. His reasons may sound noble and heroic, his intentions appeared to be, but he lost his life from the decision. But did he not act according to his highest value at the moment?


I’m reminded of watching the board room scene from the TV series, The Apprentice, last week. Donald Trump was interviewing the contestants to decide who to fire. Before going into the board room, one lady informed her team leader, she volunteered to be the one fired. Which on the surface appeared to be a noble self-sacrificing decision, however, Donald trump saw it as the person volunteering to be a victim, and an absence of leadership qualities. When he fired her, he said, “Never volunteer to be a victim.”


Back to the captain of a ship. His is a role of leadership, to be in charge of the safety of his crew, ship and cargo. To volunteer to be captive seems an abandonment of his duties and responsibilities to his crew, ship and cargo. As heroic as the decision sounds, does not appear to be a wise one.


Most of us know someone or know of someone we admire as being a hero. We like heroes; they seem to make us feel better about ourselves and others. And it is certainly not my position to diminish heroism. But I also think it is incumbent upon us to examine so-called heroic acts and why.


It is a well known fact; the captain of a ship is the leader in charge. Just as it’s the role of the Captain pilot of an airplane is in charge and responsible for decisions relative to the safety of his passengers and aircraft. When one abandons these responsibilities in a time of crisis, it is what it is, an act of abandonment, and a failure to live up to the responsibilities assigned to him.


And as romantic as it may seem to some, i.e. Piracy, it’s in actuality an act of terrorism.












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0 Responses to Luxury Liner Ille De France – Piracy – And Heroism on the Seven Seas (Issue 198)

  1. I do think the pirates were dealt with in the correct fashion: war was not declared on some country they had no connection to; instead they were shot with surgical precision.

    I’m still not sure pirates qualify as terrorists, though. Terrorists use fear to manipulate a government for the political gain of their cause. Pirates are just looking to steal. I suppose terrorists can use piracy to finance their endeavors, but most pirates have no “cause” other than their own monetary gain.

  2. Hi Kent,

    Love your comment, not sure pirates qualify as terroist. Call them anything you like, but they are looters, and criminals, who take property at the point of a gun in violation of the owner. They terrorize other human beings. Therefore I call them terrorist, thieves,plunderers, kidnappers, looters, crimminals, robbers. They fit all these catagories in my opinion.
    I believe killing another human being is wrong.

    I agree they were killed with surgical precision, but dis-agree with the basic premise of the entire operation.

    The irresponsibility of the cargo owner and its crew to naievely travel in those crimminal infested waters un-armed is what it is-irresponsible.
    This irresponsibility places the burden of protection on tax-payers to fund the Navy ship its crew and the Navy Seals called in to rescue.
    These privately owned cargo operations should have insurance to pay for their protection and carry aboard paid gun-toting guards to protect themselves and their ship and cargo.
    In this country private companies have armoured vehichles with armed guards to go around to pick up the money from private business. They pay for insurance in the event crimminals decide to loot and attack the vehichle and occupants.
    They do not depend upon the military and police paid for by tax-payer monies to protect them. Why should cargo ships be any different?

    Protection always works, at the point it does not its no longer protection.
    By virtue of the fact these cargo companies do not provide the protection for themselves entering territories infested with pirates, who regularly attack, is absurd.
    This entire operation was wrong from beginning to end.It was wrong for pirates to enter the privately owned cargo ship. Wrong to kidnap, but equally wrong for the US government to use tax-payer monies to rescue and wrong to kill.
    Conversly, the ships captain and crew have every right to carry guns and protect themselves, and they failed to do so. A deliberate calculated decision not too.
    From this deliberate decision and action, what makes it the responsibility of American tax-payers?
    I appreciate your comment as always whether you agree with me or not.

    Anne Cleveland
    Chief Editor

  3. I also can’t understand why a ship would not allow its crew to be armed. If I don’t trust a person with a gun (ANY type of gun), then I don’t trust that person enough to be around at all, and certainly not enough to be on-board a ship with them. I know that in many ports, the crew would be “criminals” if they were armed, so maybe this has something to do with this dereliction of basic responsibilities. I also wonder if there is some “law” regulating this like there is for air travel.

    I do think that thieves and attackers should be killed by their intended victim or a rescuer. The “rescuers” in this case just happen to be pirates in the employ of the US government. I can’t sympathize with the dead pirates any more than I would feel sorry for gang-bangers who get killed by rival gang-bangers.

    Of course, I can’t understand why more people don’t defy the anti-gun “laws” that choke our country and give the criminals (both badged and free-lance) the upper hand. I think it is a sickness of dependency.