North Idaho Captain Talks About Pirate Problems

HAYDEN, Idaho — John Finney had a vested interest in the rescue of the U.S. ship captain who was being held by Somali pirates.

Undeterred by U.S. and French hostage rescues, Somali pirates brazenly hijacked three more ships in the Gulf of Aden on Tuesday. It’s the same waterway that’s become the focal point of the world’s fight against piracy.

Finney has had to travel through some pirate hot spots during his 31-years as a captain with the Merchant Marines. But despite the potential threat, Finney still loves being out at sea.

“I grew up in Hayden and went to high school here,” he said. “I was originally planning on going into the Navy like my father.”

But fate had something else in store for Finney. He spends up to 70 days at a time on board a cargo ship just like the hijacked Maersk Alabama, responsible for delivering thousands of containers to destinations around the world.

“The sun is coming up and we’re having our morning cup on the bridge and I’ll say, ‘We’re getting paid for this!’ ” exclaimed Finney.

But Finney knows it’s a job that comes with known dangers.

“There’s piratage waters that are of concern all over the place,” he said.

When the Maersk Alabama was hijacked last week, Captain Finney wasn’t surprised. It was one of his company’s ships and the area is notorious for pirate activity.

“Lately, because of the events that are happening, the Somali coast is the most prevalent and most active right now,” he said.

Finney says that for pirates, overtaking a ship is like robbing a convenience store.

“There are a lot of ships out there doing what we do,” said Finney. “We’re not armed, we don’t carry guns.”

But according to Finney, even things as simple as lights can deter pirates.

“I’d fasten them to the railing and shine them down to the water, the purpose of that is it would illuminate the water line,” said Finney. “It would deter a small boat from coming up along the ship.”

Finney says force is the way to deal with pirates patrolling the seas, but he warns that pirates are turning into shrewd businessmen.

“Now they know it’s profitable when companies, foreign companies, pay off the ransoms,” he said. “They see how there’s some big money to be made here.”

But the recent attacks won’t keep Finney from reporting for duty, he heads back out to sea next month.