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Crewman of hijacked ship sues over safety

Richard E. Hicks has alleged that sailors were put in danger. Richard E. Hicks has alleged that sailors were put in danger.
Associated Press / April 28, 2009
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HOUSTON - A member of the crew on the US-flagged ship hijacked by African pirates sued the owner and another company yesterday, accusing them of knowingly putting sailors in danger.

Richard E. Hicks alleges in the suit that owner Maersk Line Limited and Waterman Steamship Corp., which provided the crew, ignored requests to improve safety measures for vessels sailing along the Somali coast.

Hicks was chief cook on the Maersk Alabama. Pirates held the ship's captain hostage for five days until the Navy rescued him.

The lawsuit seeks at least $75,000 in damages and improved safety.

Officials for Norfolk, Va.-based Maersk Line and Mobile, Ala.-based Waterman said their companies don't comment on pending litigation.

Hicks asked that the two companies improve safety for ships by providing armed security or allowing crew members to carry weapons, sending ships through safer routes, and placing such safety measures on ships as barbed wire that would prevent pirates from being able to board vessels.

"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 said. "I'm just trying to make sure this is a lot better for other seamen."

"We think [the companies] should be more concerned about the personnel on their ships than the profits the companies make," said Terry Bryant, Hicks's attorney.