Cook on Pirated Ship Sues Boss For Poor Safety Regs

A crewman aboard the American ship overtaken by pirates earlier this month is suing the company that owns the vessel.

Richard Hicks, one of 19 crewman who survived the pirate attacks on U.S. merchant ship Maersk Alabama, filed suit against his employer and owner of the ship for failing to provide adequate safety for the sailors.

Hicks filed the lawsuit against Virginia-based Maersk Line, Limited and Alabama-based Waterman Steamship Corporation this morning. He is asking for $75,000 in damages, the Associated Pres reported.

The Royal Palm Beach, Florida resident was a chief steward and cook on the Maersk Alabama, which came under attack by pirates off the coast of Somalia on April 8. The crew was held hostage in the vessel's engine room for more than 12 hours. 

Hicks said that he had previously asked the two companies to improve safety by providing armed security, allowing sailors to carry protective weapons or sending the ships through safer routes.

"We've had safety meetings every month for the last three years and made suggestions of what should be done, and they have been ignored," Hicks, 53, told the AP. "I'm just trying to make sure this is a lot better for other seamen."

Hicks, who has worked for 32 years as a merchant seaman, was so rattled by the experience that he doesn't know if he will ever go out to sea again.

"The engine room was dark and hot, maybe 130 degrees. We were all cramping up with heat stroke symptoms when we were able to take a pirate hostage and tried to negotiate the return of our captain," Hicks said in a news release.

His lawyer, Terry Bryant, said he hopes the lawsuit will "bring more attention to the shipping industry and the dangers in pirate-infested waters."

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