Another graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy was the captain of the container ship Maersk Alabama when it was attacked again today by pirates off the coast of Somalia.
Captain Paul Rochford in his 1979 yearbook photograph.
Four pirates in a skiff came within 300 yards of the ship at 6:30 a.m. local time, but the crew repelled the attack by making evasive maneuvers and firing several warning shots, according to a statement issued by the US Navy. No injuries have been reported.
The current skipper of the Maersk Alabama is Captain Paul Rochford, 52, of Barrington, R.I.
"I'm just relieved that he's OK," said his wife, Kimberly Rochford, in a telephone interview from the barber shop she owns in East Providence, R.I.
"I never worry about him. He's really professional. He's really good at his job," Kimberly Rochford continued. "After they had been attacked by the pirates before, they had some new training. Of course, he didn't tell me about it."
Rochford graduated in 1979 and was a classmate of Richard Phillips, the Vermont resident taken hostage in a similar attack last spring.
"This is a great example of learning lessons," said Rear Admiral Richard Gurnon, president of the Maritime Academy. "A security team fired warning shots. Prior to [the attack on the Maersk Alabama last spring], merchant ships, particularly American merchant ships, didn't have small arms aboard."
Gurnon described Rochford as "quiet, very conscientious, very low-key, a lot like Rich Phillips."
"What I'm sure they did was fire a few warning shots to let them know that this was not a fat, dumb target," Gurnon said.
Rochford goes to sea for four months at a stretch and his wife said she had not seen him since August. Kimberly Rochford learned about the pirate attack this morning on the television news as she was eating cereal with their 17-year-old daughter, Madison.
"I just said, 'Oh my goodness, something is going on with daddy's ship,'" Kimberly Rochford recalled.
They ran upstairs to check the Internet but found little information. On the television newscast, they mentioned firearms and said no one was hurt. Paul Rochford is due to return next week to Barrington, where he grew up. Kimberly Rochford met him in Newport and the couple has been married for 25 years.
"He's very laid back, he's very calm," she said. "He thinks before he speaks."
At home, Paul Rochford speaks little of his life at sea. The couple did not dwell on the dangers of the job after pirates attacked the Maersk Alabama in April and Phillips was held hostage for five days. US naval forces rescued Phillips on April 12, killing three suspected pirates and taking one into custody, according to the Navy.
Rochford had relinquished command of the Maersk Alabama to Phillips two weeks before the siege, Kimberly Rochford said. When her husband returned stateside, the couple never really discussed what Rochford would do if pirates attacked when he was at the helm.
"He never talks about that," Kimberly Rochford said. "He's just really proud of what he does. And he takes his job very seriously."
Rochford and Phillips spent four years together at the Maritime Academy, where they were deckies in the same class, Gurnon said. The group numbered less than 50 students, and both spent significant time together in the same classrooms.
"There are old captains and bold captains, but there are no old, bold captains," Gurnon said, adapting an aviation saying for the sea. "You get to be a captain and remain successful by ensuring that you practice with your crew, that you drill emergencies, that you don't take unnecessary risks."
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