BOURNE, Mass. (AP) – The captain of a cargo ship seized by pirates had just e-mailed his wife that pirate traffic was picking up. The second-in-command had extensive training on how to fight pirates – and had predicted it was just a “matter of time” until he had to confront them.

Now Capt. Richard Phillips, his chief officer and the crew of the Maersk Alabama are being hailed as American heroes after restoring the ship to U.S. control, although Phillips was still being held late Wednesday by pirates who fled to a lifeboat.

“These waters are infested with Pirates that highjack ships daily. I feel like it’s only a matter of time before my number gets called,” Capt. Shane Murphy wrote on his profile on Facebook, a social networking site.

Murphy, a 33-year-old father of two young boys and 2001 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, is the ship’s second-in-command.

His father, Capt. Joseph Murphy, an instructor at the maritime academy on Cape Cod, said the pirates made a mistake taking on his son’s ship.

“I think the pirates are going to regret this. The Americans will respond,” he said. “There will be an aggressive response.”

The elder Murphy said the Department of Defense called him Wednesday morning to report that the ship was back in U.S. hands. He said his son had been trained in anti-piracy tactics, including weapons.

When the attack occurred, the father said, an American naval ship was about 200 miles away. That presence helped prevent his son’s ship from being sailed to another country’s territorial waters, which would make it more difficult to recover.

Murphy’s daughter-in-law, Serena Murphy of Seekonk, Mass., got a call at 10 a.m. Wednesday from her husband. Her impression was that he was not supposed to be calling, and the call lasted only two minutes.

“He said, ‘I’m alive.’ And he said that the pirates had taken over the ship, and that they had taken down one of the pirates, but they still had control of the ship,” Murphy said.

He then indicated he would call her back when he could.

“I said, ‘Are you safe?’ He said, ‘No.’ And I said, ‘Have they been cruel to you?”‘ Her husband said they had not been given anything to eat or drink since their capture.

She believed she heard the pirates in the background. “I heard loud voices, and then he said he had to go right away. He said, ‘Love you. Goodbye.”‘

When she told friends about the call, they initially thought she was joking. “I mean, whose husband gets kidnapped by pirates?” she asked.

Andrea Phillips of Underhill, Vt., said her husband left home at the end of March and joined the ship last week.

“I knew exactly where he was,” Phillips said during an interview at her home. “I just got an e-mail from him and knew he was heading into Mombasa,” a city on the coast of Kenya. “He had even made the comment that pirate activity was picking up.”

She said she always worried about reports of pirates.

“I always hoped it wasn’t going to happen to us,” she said.

John F. Reinhart, CEO of Maersk Line Ltd., said the company had contacted relatives of 17 of the 20 crew members aboard the vessel, which was carrying more than 400 containers of food aid bound for Africa.

He would not release the names of the crew but said all were U.S. citizens.

At one point, the company received a call that indicated the crewmen were safe. But the call got cut off, and the company could not ask any more questions.

The crew members “called to say, ‘We are safe.’ They did not say they had taken over the vessel. They did not say the pirates are off the vessel,” Reinhart said.

The Seafarers International Union, which represents at least 12 crew members, also refused to release the names, saying not all family members had been notified.

Timothy Brown, president of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, said three members of the union were on the ship but would not identify them.

Zein Z. Achmad, of Swatara, Pa., who served aboard the same ship in 2007, said crews whose ships are overtaken could probably stay in their cabins.

“You can walk around, except maybe some pirate is there with a loaded gun,” said Swatara, who has never been hijacked. “They only want the money and then they take good care of the crew.”

Those who know Murphy said they expected a good outcome.

“To me, he was a hero anyway. As strange as it is, it’s almost not surprising. That’s about it. That’s Shane,” said Patrick Stewart, Murphy’s roommate at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth.

Robert MacAleese, a senior at Massachusetts Maritime, said Murphy recently visited his father’s modern cargo class.

“He stated that he sees pirates all the time,” MacAleese said. But Murphy added that he thought the pirates “knew better than to go against the American ships.”

The elder Murphy said ships can go full speed to outrun pirates, and cadets are taught to extinguish deck lighting to make it difficult for pirates to see. They also could use lighting to temporarily blind the pirates or use high-pressure fire hoses to push them away.

Murphy said he expects his son to return to the academy someday to tell other cadets about this experience.

“You’ve got to get the job done,” he said. “This is another day at work.”


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