- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 21, 2009

BOURNE, Mass. (AP) | The captain of a U.S. cargo ship who surrendered himself to Somali pirates to spare his sailors told cadets at his alma mater Wednesday that leadership means taking care of your crew, even at the expense of going hungry so others can eat.

Capt. Richard Phillips of Underhill, Vt., spoke to about 1,000 cadets at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy after receiving its 2009 Mariner of the Year Award. It was his first time back to campus since four Somali pirates armed with automatic weapons seized the Maersk Alabama on April 8.

“I believe leadership is taking care of your people, whether it can be a navigation watch of one other person or a group of hundreds,” he said.

Capt. Phillips said he used to expect he would lead a quiet seafaring career, then retire. But so far, he has contended with ships damaged by icebergs, sailed in the Arctic and Antarctic, rescued stranded fishermen, helped evacuate medical casualties, doused shipboard fires and, of course, dealt with pirates.

Taken hostage for ransom, Capt. Phillips spent five days in a sweltering lifeboat off the coast of lawless Somalia until U.S. Navy snipers fatally shot three of his captors.

He advised the cadets that seafaring will be “the ride of your life.”

“The nervousness some of you are feeling is good,” Capt. Phillips said. “It is your brain trying to tell you to get ready for something you cannot predict, expect or anticipate.”

Faculty and staff at the academy, which trains its students in anti-piracy techniques and firearms, waited anxiously while Capt. Phillips was held hostage. Brendan Doherty, 19, a freshman studying marine engineering, said he appreciated listening to the captain’s understated remarks.

“You could tell he had experienced a lot, but at the same time, his head wasn’t high in the clouds,” Mr. Doherty said.

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