On April 8th, 2009, with a crew of 21 Americans, the Maersk Alabama was en route to Mombasa, Kenya. The Moller-Maersk Group, the largest container shipping company in the world, is one of the United States Department of Defense's primary shipping contractors. The ship was reported to be carrying 17,000 metric tons of cargo, of which 5,000 metric tons were relief supplies bound for Somalia, Uganda, and Kenya. According to second mate Ken Quinn, the pirates sank their speedboat shortly after boarding the Alabama early on Wednesday, April 8th. As the pirates were boarding the ship, the crew members locked themselves in a room.
The crew soon used "brute force" to retake control of the ship, and overpowered one of the pirates. The ship's captain, Richard Phillips, 53, surrendered himself to ensure his crew's safety. The crew attempted to trade the pirate they had captured and tied up for twelve hours for the captain, but after the crew released their captive, the pirates refused to honor the agreement. They fled in one of the ship's covered lifeboats with nine days of food rations and took Phillips with them
On Sunday, April 12th, 2009, Capt. Richard Phillips was rescued, reportedly in good condition, from his pirate captors. The commander of United States Fifth Fleet Vice Admiral William E. Gortney reported the rescue began when Commander Frank Castellano, captain of the Bainbridge, determined that Phillips' life was in imminent danger and ordered the action. President Barack Obama had previously given standing orders to take action if it was determined Phillips' life was in immediate danger. The Vice Admiral reported that U.S. Navy SEAL snipers on the Bainbridge's fantail opened fire and killed the three pirates remaining in the lifeboat with a simultaneous volley of three shots. At the time, the Bainbridge had the lifeboat under tow, approximately 25 to 30 yards astern. A fourth pirate was aboard the USS Bainbridge negotiating a ransom and was taken into custody. The U.S. Navy evacuated Captain Phillips via RHIB boat to the USS Bainbridge and then flew him by helicopter to the USS Boxer for medical evaluation.