New Yorker

Escape or Die


April 13, 2014

By James Verini

150420_r26401-320 Aman Kumar, a seaman on the M.V. Albedo, was asleep when an announcement came over the loudspeaker: “Pirates are approaching.” The Albedo was in the Indian Ocean, a thousand miles from the eastern coast of Africa. Kumar rushed up a narrow stairwell to the bridge, where most of the ship’s twenty-three-man crew had already gathered. His bunkmate, Rajoo Rajbhar, pointed to port. They could make out a distant silhouette on top of the waves: an open-bow skiff.

The Albedo’s captain, Jawaid Khan, had stored prewritten distress messages in his e-mail drafts folder. He entered the ship’s coördinates and sent messages to the European Union Naval Force, a regional maritime-security office, and a piracy-reporting center. Then he directed the steersman to maneuver the ship in a zigzag pattern. He called the engine room and ordered full steam, but the Albedo, a cargo ship on its way from the United Arab Emirates to Kenya, was old and sluggish.
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