Learnings from a movie: Captain Phillips - FocusU

Learnings from a movie: Captain Phillips

Just a few days ago, I was watching this amazing documentary called “Captain Phillips.” Inspired by the true story of the “Maersk Alabama hijacking” in the year 2009, it tells of the unarmed ship going from the Port of Salalah in Oman to Mombasa, Kenya. The movie highlights the importance of qualities like situational awareness, good communication, and teamwork. 

First Cut

While the ship was at the Horn of Africa, Richard Phillip and his first officer Shane Murphy decided to carry out practice drills. During the drill itself, the ship was chased by Somali pirates. Now this ship was unarmed and the pirate ship was armed in two skiffs. One of the pirates used a walky-talky acquired from some previous loot, and thus were able to listen to the conversations happening aboard the ship and Captain knew it. 

The captain showed his presence of mind and made a pretend-call to the warship requesting for immediate air support and then replied to his own message by changing his voice saying that air support will be there in the next 5 minutes. Listening to this conversation, the pirates turned around their ship returned.

Return of the pirates

Later, the ship was again attacked by the same pirates, armed on one skiff and this time they were able to get on to the ship. Captain Phillips told the whole crew to get down and hide into the engine room and allowed himself to be captured. Abduwali Muse, the leader of the pirates told Captain that they would spare the ship and the lives of the crew aboard in exchange for a million dollars. Phillips tried to negotiate with them and offered them 30000$ from the ship’s safe.

But as luck would have it, the pirate said no to his offer. He then asked about the rest of the crew. He then ordered his men to search the whole ship. Captain Phillips further played smart and very quietly switched the frequency on the walky-talky and started talking to Muse about how they would go to the different parts of the ship. 

“First we will go to the lower deck of the ship, followed by the kitchen, and then to the bottom-most part of the ship.”  the Captain conveyed to the Pirate leader while the crew at the bottom of the ship also listened in to the conversation. Amazing presence of mind, the Captain was able to communicate with the crew

The Rescue

Murphy, one of the crew members on the Captain’s ship was hiding in the kitchen and he noticed that one of the pirates did not have sandals on and quickly told the remaining crew members to put some broken glass in the engine room hallway. The plan worked beautifully and the moment Pirates stepped into the hallway one of them got seriously injured and this made them return to their ship. 


What I liked the most about the story was the team effort involved. There are also numerous examples of 

  1. How to be a  good leader
  2. Leadership without title
  3. Situational Awareness 
  4. Communication

Captain Phillips is truly an amazing movie with a host of entertaining twists and turns along with wonderful insights. I would most certainly recommend it to everyone.

Read Also  Stories of Great Teams: Part 1: "Skunk Works"!

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