Captain Who Survived Hijacking by Somali Pirates to Speak on Campus

Capt. Richard Phillips
Capt. Richard Phillips

Tom Hanks portrayed him in a critically acclaimed movie.

Now, the real Capt. Richard Phillips will share his story in his own words when he comes to Cal Poly Pomona on Wednesday, Feb. 4, to speak to students as part of the College of Business Administration’s Leadership Forum.

Phillips was held hostage for five days in April 2009 after Somali pirates hijacked a commercial ship he was piloting, the first hijacking of a U.S. ship in more than 200 years.

The ship, the Maersk Alabama, contained food aid destined for East Africa. After boarding the ship, the pirates held four sailors at gunpoint. However, the ship’s crew of 20 outnumbered its attackers and was able to wound the pirates’ suspected leader.

The pirates demanded an escape boat, as they scuttled the one on which they arrived.  To halt the standoff and protect his crew, Phillips offered himself as a hostage.

An attempt to trade the wounded pirate for Phillips failed, leading to a standoff between the U.S. Navy and the bandits. After a few days, Navy SEAL snipers spotted one of the pirates aiming an AK-47 assault rifle at Phillips’ back, which prompted a dramatic rescue that Phillips recounts in his book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea.”

The story also was turned in to an Academy Award- and Golden Globe-nominated film starring Hanks as Phillips.

Phillips graduated from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and is a member of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots Union. He is a licensed American merchant mariner. He married Andrea Coggio in 1987. The couple has two children, Mariah and Danny, and live in Underhill, Vermont.

The event is at 6 p.m. in Ursa Major at the Bronco Student Center. It is free to attend, but registration is required. To register for the event, go to