Two days ago, on Wednesday, January 2, the containership MSC Mandy — owned and operated by one of the world’s largest commercial shipping companies, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) — was traveling in the Gulf of Guinea when pirates attacked and boarded the ship.
Though the details are unclear, media reports indicate that the pirates kidnapped six crew members and exited the ship. The remaining crew members steered MSC Mandy back to Lagos, Nigeria, where it is currently anchored.
Given the events, it is possible that the crew members and their families will have a cause of action for damages against MSC for the losses suffered due to the pirate attack and subsequent kidnapping.
Operators Have a Responsibility to Protect Crew Members from Third-Party Dangers
Commercial shipping operators have a responsibility to shield their crew members from any and all unreasonable risks of harm, which includes third-party harms such as pirates. This is particularly important when a cargo ship is routing through waters known to be at a high risk for pirate attacks. The west coast of Africa, particularly around Nigeria, Benin, and Guinea are a haven for pirates, and in recent years, there have been hundreds of pirate attacks and kidnappings.
Many industry observers are concerned that the pirates have become more aggressive, and are venturing further away from shore (as far as 100 nautical miles). This means that crews are at risk despite the fact that they have set a route far from the shore — and in the present case; MSC Mandy was 55 nautical miles off the coast of Benin when it was attacked and boarded by pirates.
Given the risk of pirate attacks, operators must install necessary safety equipment (i.e., alarm systems, backup communication systems, safe rooms, barbed wire fencing, etc.), train employees on how to respond in the event of an attack or hostile boarding, and hire dedicated security personnel to protect crews in high-risk areas. The MSC Mandy does not appear to have had security personnel with firearms that could have been used to dissuade the pirates from their goal of boarding the vessel away and so have prevented the kidnapping altogether.
Damages May Be Significant
Damages in a pirate attack can be quite significant. In the present case, it is unclear whether the six crew members who have been kidnapped were injured. Even if not physically harmed, they suffered the emotional trauma of their abduction and kidnapping and in all likelihood emotional pain and suffering while under the custody of the pirates.
These events can be deeply unsettling — even traumatizing—, the impact lingers, and at times does not surface until a later date. For example, a crew member who is kidnapped by a pirate group may be abused while in custody, and could have trouble working as a seaman down the line due to their experiences.
We Can Help
If you or a loved one has been harmed in a third-party attack while serving as a crew member aboard a cargo ship, then you may have a right of action for damages. Cargo ship operators have a responsibility to protect their crew from unreasonable risks of harm. The failure to do so could give rise to significant civil liability.
Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our attorneys boast over a century of combined experience representing maritime injury and wrongful death claimants in a variety of disputes, including those that center on third-party violence. We understand the unique challenges associated with such litigation and how best to navigate the dispute to maximize potential compensation.
We have a results-focused mentality that has earned us substantial recognition at the national and regional level. Since our founding, we have obtained over $200 million in favorable verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients.
Ready to speak to our team about your claims? Contact Lipcon today to request a meeting with one of our experienced maritime lawyers.