Hi, I'm Rich Phillips, I'm a US Merchant Marine and Captain.

I've been sailing for 34 years and through my career I've dealt with many different things, including Somali Pirates (which you may have heard of, thanks to the recent movie). Ask me almost anything

Proof here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=570803472999568&set=a.549798265100089.1073741829.427467410666509&type=1

I just want to say thanks for the questions, and I want to remind people of another group of Merchant Marines, the WWII Merchant Marine Vets that still get no recognition but what they did during WWII that not a lot of people realize is that the rate of death was second only to the frontline U.S. Marines division. Many lost their lives supplying the Military in WWII. MacArthur had said that US Merchant marines were the lifeblood during World War II, and this is a group that needs recognition that is sorely due them as they get older and older and up in age. And lastly, a chance to thank the US Military and United States Navy SEALS in particular. They are a great bunch of men and women and we are lucky to have them working for us and ensuring our safety. These were the true heroes of this story and I want to thank reddit and sign off.

Comments: 1613 • Responses: 40  • Date: 

yiddishe1830 karma

Please convince me that the accusations your former crew is levying against you( that you basically lie and you pretty much endangered them), are false.

Richard_Phillips2486 karma

I don't think there's enough time here to convince you. It's a suit that is ongoing that started 2 weeks after they got back. It's not all my crew and unfortunately we live in a litigious society. Some of the crew had been on for a while and had never complained until after this incident, so the court will decide and hopefully that will convince you.

Rizzoriginal1248 karma

How do you respond to critics that claim you ignored warning on the safe distance required from the Somali coast and thus putting your crew in danger.

Richard_Phillips1994 karma

Again this has to do with the suit that started shortly after the incident. The 600 miles were advisories and warnings put out by various organizations. But if you look at a chart of our route, we were never outside of 600 miles. And this ship had been in that area for 4 years. So the warnings and advisories were basically if you can avoid the area, to avoid it by 600 miles and we were always in 600 miles. And ships had been taken out 1200 miles before, so the 600 miles was not that accurate.

croblyer864 karma

Do you think Tom Hanks did a good job portraying the events that happened in real life, in the movie?

Richard_Phillips1916 karma

I think Tom Hanks did a good job in portraying me, again compressing 5 days into 2 hours you lose some things, but I think he did a good job. And how could you go wrong with Tom Hanks???

FalloutLoneWanderer626 karma

Hello. Did you suffer from any PTSD or any traumatic stress symptoms between the time you returned to sea or even after you returned to sea?

Richard_Phillips1844 karma

I have really had no nightmares or dreams from the incident. 2 days after in the movie it shows me crying in the hospital, and the incident actually occurred the 2nd and 3rd night, I would wake up in the night and I had a digital clock so I knew exactly what time it was, and I would be crying, racking and sobbing. And I would mentally slap myself in the head and say "What's your problem? You made it, you're lucky."

And there was this one SEAL who somehow sensed something in me and basically was harassing me, and he explained "Rich, it doesn't always turn out like this." They are not always successful. After some missions, they have to talk to psychologists. So I said "if you leave me alone, I will call him" so I called the SEAL psychologist. And he got a sense of me on the phone talking to him and he asked me if I was sad the pirates died, and I said no doc, no stockholm syndrome here, and then I said put us all back in the boat and we'll see who walks out. And then he asked me if I was sleeping and I said I slept like a baby. And then he asked me if I was eating and I said I was not eating much but because it was hot that was normal for me. And then he asked me if I cried a lot, and I said no but I was waking up at 5 in the morning crying like a little baby. And he said basically it was the hormones and chemicals put out by your body during a fight or flight situation. And he asked me what I did when I woke up crying, and I told him what I am telling all of you, and he said well that is one mechanism to release these chemicals and hormones, crying and talking about it, so he told me the next time it happened to let it run its natural course. For the fourth morning, I woke up at 5 in the morning crying and sobbing like a little baby and I just let it flow for 45 minutes and it ended on its own. And it never happened again after that. And so I truly believe now that it is important to talk to someone who can help you, and to cry.

hackers_syrinx488 karma

Hi. Thanks for doing this.

How accurately has your story been represented in the film?

Richard_Phillips757 karma

The story was fairly accurate in the film. We all have to remember it is a movie, and it is compressing 5 days into 2 hours, so some of the scheduling is different, but it follows the true story fairly well. For example, in the real incident it was into the rescue boat and then the life boat, and in the movie, I was directly sent into the life boat to save time.

mellowbrickroad404 karma

What story of yours do you wish was told outside of that involving Somali pirates?

Richard_Phillips633 karma

There's been a few stories. I've been involved with medical emergencies, fires in the engine room, hurricanes and typhoons, and some incidences of drunken pilots almost damaging my ship. And also I was in the West Coast of Africa during the revolutions that were happening there, with Chuck Taylor and all that, and that was truly a story to experience.

words4thoughts391 karma

Who would win in a fight between you and Tom Hanks?

Richard_Phillips1272 karma

Ha! That's easy, Tom Hanks would lose. I probably have 25-30 pounds on him, although he is taller. Besides he's a big crybaby.

Iceburg37355 karma

What was the most frightening experience you had while out at sea?

Richard_Phillips631 karma

I would say the most frightening experience I've had out at sea would be when I had a fire in the engine room, and I thought I had 4 dead crew on my hands, and had to still calm down a fire that was ablaze in the engine room. So that was my most worrisome and most concerning moment.

klsi832317 karma

If you could live out the plot of a Tom Hanks movie, which one would you chose?

Richard_Phillips711 karma

Oh that's easy. Forrest Gump.

thetodd14290 karma

Hey Captain! After watching the movie, I found myself somewhat sympathetic with the Somalians, especially after Muse said "Did you shoot my friends?" with reality setting in soon after. After this ordeal, do you find yourself somewhat sympathetic for these guys considering that most are forced into this life? Side note, I hope everyone knows of this story by and I didn't provided any spoilers...

Richard_Phillips707 karma

I don't think most pirates were really forced into this life, it was a choice they made. They do not have the opportunities that we have in the United States, but no, I did not feel any sympathy for them and they felt none for me. In the movie, the actors established a sense of empathy, but in real life, we understood each other but we were adversaries.

666bilbobaggins269 karma

Apart from yourself being portrayed accurately, do you think that the pirates like Muse were like they were in real life too?

Richard_Phillips505 karma

I think very much, I think the actor who played the lead pirate was very accurate, especially in the scenes where they first boarded the Maersk Alabama. If you look in his eyes in those scenes, you can see the fear coming out of his eyes toward Tom Hanks. You can see the commitment that he has, how dedicated he was, and in Tom Hanks you can see the fear in his eyes which was certainly in mine, and you can almost see his thoughts of trying to regain his control, and some slight baby steps back.

thefoolofemmaus241 karma

Thanks for doing this, Cap'n. What should be done about ship security in the future? Do you support arming private ships?

Richard_Phillips385 karma

I do believe it's one facet of a multifaceted security plan for ships. I don't believe it's a silver bullet, it's just one part of it. I think we need layers of deterrents to equal the layers of threats we do see all over the world. What a lot of people don't realize is that piracy is the second oldest profession we deal with as merchant marines but we deal with piracy all over the world (Vietnam, East and West coasts of Africa and South America, and today Nigeria is probably worse). So it's something we just have to deal with. On ships, we don't have a police force or a fire department or a hospital, we are self-sufficient, so we have to meet all emergencies and be ready for all emergencies no matter what type they are.

thefoolofemmaus135 karma

Thanks for a thoughtful, textured response! Can you give any details or examples of these "layers of deterrents"?

Richard_Phillips306 karma

Yes, basically I am talking about different levels (lethal and nonlethal) to meet different levels of threats. Things like watertight doors, LRADs (long range audio devices), I still also believe weapons are a part of that and the crew should be trained in that (and many crew members are) and we have to stay ahead of the curve. The pirates are constantly evolving and we must stay ahead of the curve.

theageofnow115 karma

What do you think about how people romanticize 18th-century piratry with films like "Pirates of the Caribbean" but demonize it today?

Richard_Phillips297 karma

I think it's only natural because many people think it's a thing of days gone by, and we all know Errol Flynn and the movies in the Caribbean with the Johnny Depp-esque portrayal of pirates. But they are just another form of thug or criminal, who are praying many times on unarmed seamen who are just working their occupation. It is really a bully situation, and something we have always had to fight in the merchant marines. It is not just in Somalia, it is in many places around the world. We can also take a look at how we portray some of our westerns with the bank robbers and outlaws and Bonnie and Clyde and how we portray them as time goes by because we think they are from a time gone by, and indeed for the merchant marines they are not.

showa_shonen216 karma

There have been reports of you taking risky actions as captain. What would your response be to such accusations?

Richard_Phillips310 karma

There have been some accusations. I do not agree with them. I am not a risky person, it is a danger to take some certain risks and no I feel like I did not take them.

ChumpDiesel212 karma

What was it like when the pirates were taken out by the SEALS. Did you have any idea that something like that was going to happen or were you completely shocked?

Richard_Phillips386 karma

I was truly completely shocked. I had no idea the SEALS were there. I thought it was pirates shooting each other from different ends of the lifeboat, so I had my head down and I was screaming "what the hell are you guys doing" because I thought they were fighting. Easter Sunday was a very tough day because they were yelling and screaming at me and at each other, so there was a lot of emotion going into that lifeboat.

JulesAnna161 karma

Hi Captain Phillips! Thanks for doing this. I was wondering, was there a point during the hijacking where you gave up hope? Also, when did it click for you that it was all actually happening?

Richard_Phillips248 karma

No, there was no point when I gave up hope and I think that is one thing people can take away from this is that as long as you don't quit, there is hope. I did not see a good ending necessarily, especially on the life boat, but I never gave up hope.

From pretty much the onset.

Richard_Phillips180 karma

In that area of the world, any ship or boat is a potential problem.

dant90155 karma

Captain Phillips, what was the first thing you did when you got back to your family in Vermont after the incident?

Richard_Phillips366 karma

We just really hugged, and then I had my favorite dinner, Chicken pot pie that a coworker of my wife had made, and it was delicious, so we had a few beers and some chicken pot pie, and I was surrounded by my friends and family and really enjoyed myself.

sophiealldridge132 karma

How did you feel not having anything to defend yourself with?

Richard_Phillips314 karma

Well as I said before this was the first ship I had been on that did not have weapons. As I've also said before, I would always rather have the option of having and not using than to need and not to have.

bvdude127 karma

What was your first thought when you realized there was going to be a problem?

What was the first sign of a problem?

Richard_Phillips230 karma

Well it was really a sinking in your stomach, an uneasy quease. And then we just went to our procedures and did what we could to try to keep them off. The biggest facet in dealing with piracy is the weather and indeed that morning, the chief mate and I had both said that we could not wait for the monsoon to change because this was indeed a pirate weather day, very little swell, near glass seas and very little wind.

The first sign was a sailor had noticed an intermittent blip on our radar, and at a little over 3 miles we saw the boat. It was hazy as it usually was in that part of the world.

tomhanks7878114 karma

Did you love Tom Hanks before Captain Phillips movie?

Richard_Phillips199 karma

I will say I liked Tom Hanks in his acting ability, but there was no emotion involved. But I liked his movies and things he has acted in, and he's proven himself to be a very good actor.

slowbar1100 karma

My father is a professor at Mass Maritime. What did you think of your time there? What did you major in?

Richard_Phillips121 karma

My time at Mass Maritime was a bunch of different emotions.

It was a great time when I made great friends, even though I don't see them on a regular basis today. It's friends like you'll never make in any other school.

But times were tough. I was in need of discipline when I attended there, so it was a time of learning for me.

And the final thing was the learning and the instruction that I receive there was hands on, and that was instrumental in the furthering on of my career.

pwniess79 karma

Having grown up with a sailing father who had experiences with pirates, I really enjoyed this movie.

There has been some backlash about just how accurately the story was told and some have gone as far as to say that you put your crew in danger. What do you make of these claims?

Richard_Phillips154 karma

There is a suit ongoing between some of my crew within a few weeks of them returning, so it's been ongoing for 4.5 years. I contest the claim, we were always in the pirate area during the whole trip, and it wasn't until after the incident that some of the crew (who had been in the same areas before without a problem) complained. And I think unfortunately we live in a litigious society and it will be settled by the courts.

Last thing, as I said before, if you are going to be a merchant marine you will deal with piracy, as your dad well knows.

swiggyzoom72 karma

Are you satisfied with how the film turned out? Do you wish anything else was included in the movie?

Richard_Phillips212 karma

I think the movie did a great job portraying most of what went on. They could have added another dimension by showing what was happening at home like what my book talks about (like in my book A Captain's Duty), and showing that facet with my wife and kids would have been interesting but it would have made a different movie, so I left it to the professionals to make a good movie and I think they did.

Lfty72 karma

Since you knew there were going to be risks and ended up encountering them, what advice would you give to other people who know they are going to be passing through bad areas of the world by sea?

Richard_Phillips116 karma

If you are going to be in that area, hopefully not on a yacht but on a ship where you can't avoid it, be prepared. Have layers of security and a plan, procedures you can institute, and have an armed security with you if you can.

sconosci72 karma

What got you into sailing? Did you ever have another profession in mind?

Richard_Phillips174 karma

Actually, I did, at one time I thought of becoming a veterinarian. I have always loved animals but I don't think I was intelligent enough to get through all that school. I fell into being a merchant marine. I was driving a cab at the time, and I picked up a guy and he said "I want some action" and I said what kind of action? And he said "I want broads and I want booze." And it being 10 in the morning, it started me asking questions, and I asked him what he did and he told me he was in the Merchant Marines. He told me he was a sailor and he worked on ships. And I asked if he liked it, and he said yes. So when he gave me a $5 tip for a $5 fare which impressed me in 1975, I asked him how could someone like me get involved? He gave me an address and I wrote there but I never heard back from him. And then a few months later my brother Michael was graduating high school and he told me about Mass Maritime academy and I ended up enrolling there the next September.

MsChanandler60 karma

You're awesome!

Richard_Phillips124 karma

Thank you! And right back at ya!

8bubbles8joe57 karma

I read that you went back out to sea less than two years after the hijacking incident. How did the hijacking change you as a captain? Were you more prepared in the future going out at sea?

Richard_Phillips94 karma

I went back to work approximately 14 months after the incident. It was good to get back to work, because that's what I do. It was good to get back to my normal.

I am just as wary and observant as I was before. I don't think I've changed too much than from before, and I still believe and I stress being prepared, drills and training. I still believe in them.

19bokami7857 karma

What is the second craziest story you can tell us after 34 years at sea? (pirates being the 1st story obviously.)

Richard_Phillips108 karma

I guess there would be a few crazy stories. This being PG, I guess I can't tell many of 'em, but I guess the second story would be up at the North Pole where we were going through some pack ice and icebergs. That was pretty challenging up in Greenland. Or a little donnybrook with some pedicycles coming back through Indonesia late one night.

Frajer56 karma

At the time of the incident did you feel like you were going above and beyond your duties as a captain?

Richard_Phillips109 karma

I would say no, I felt that was my job. If you take the paycheck, you have to do the job, and my job is to protect the crew, the ship and the cargo, so I felt it was my job.

Elapids51 karma

What ran through your mind after the first time you jumped out of the lifeboat and got recaptured?

Richard_Phillips125 karma

The first thing that jumped in my mind was OH IT'S SO COOL , then two, I gotta get out of here, then three, I lost my glasses, and then four, what am I gonna do now? And then they got me back and they were not happy.

mjdiaz5749 karma

I saw that you came to the Wind Jammer in Burlington, VT. What did you think of the food?

Richard_Phillips69 karma

I love the Wind Jammer, it's great food, always good.

caseyctrl47 karma

Hello Cpt Philipps. Two questions for you.

After 34 years has the sea ever gotten dull and do you have any regrets?

Also, any recommendations for someone who is about to change their career path from law to one related to maritime?

Richard_Phillips80 karma

Number 1, no, the sea will never get dull, it's constantly changing and challenging, every day is different. There are no ruts at sea. It's working on a dynamic platform and a dynamic life. So no, I never get routines or bored.

Number 2, any regrets, I have no regrets. I am glad and happy I found the career I chose, and I still enjoy it, and I enjoy the challenges.

You can't go wrong with any decision you make coming from law school, and if you want a challenge with a tough life, one that is demanding and rewarding, it's an excellent choice.

imthespacecadet47 karma

What is it like having a celebrity portray you in a movie? Do you think Tom accurately represents your personality on screen?

Richard_Phillips99 karma

I think he did a very good job again. He's a fairly normal guy, I met him 3 times in my hometown and he was straightforward. Like me, he does not take himself seriously but he takes his work seriously and he has done a lot of great acting roles. I think he did get a sense of me, especially with his comments about coffee time in the movie.

alaneczek43 karma

Hello Mr Phillips, I just wanted to ask you how you felt when the ship was hijacked? Did you perhaps think to yourself that there is no way out of this situation, or perhaps you were thinking of your family which inspired you to fight for survival?

Richard_Phillips78 karma

First of all, my crew did a great job in ensuring that the ship was not hijacked. The Alabama was attacked and boarded and myself and some of my crew were taken hostage, but the ship was never under the control of the pirates. Really once the pirates boarded, I had lost much control and it was really just problem solving to try to get myself, my crew and my ship out of that situation and the pirates off the ship so for the first 12 hours, it was basically problem solving and trying to extricate ourselves. So I really did not think about the endgame at that point or my family, I was just trying to solve the problem of the pirates. It was not until I was on the life boat that I thought about my family, and from the very onset I did not think it was a good thing and the danger and the fear was always there.

petdance34 karma

[SPOILER ALERT, although I think we all know how it comes out at the end]

I just wanted to comment that what made the movie gripping to me, and brought me to tears at the end was coming to grips with the horror of what you'd been through, and then your asking the doctor "Do my family know I'm OK?"

The teenagers behind me snickered throughout that scene, at your trauma of being covered in the blood of others. I think they were wanting a U!S!A! U!S!A! ending to it all. I'm glad Greengrass didn't give it to them.

Was that scene an accurate portrayal of those first few minutes of safety? How did you move through those feelings?

How do you feel about the men who kidnapped you and endangered your crew? Anger? Sympathy? Pity? Disgust?

Richard_Phillips38 karma

Wow, that is a long question! I had no real sympathy, I understood the pirates and what they were doing and their intent, but I was still an adversary and I thought that was important.

I was affected through that whole incident, and there was that release when I was by myself, but in the real incident, my family had known and they had told me, I did not ask about them if they knew. And the blood on my face, I did have blood on my face when they did first throw me in the rigid inflatable boat, they thought I was injured but it was the splatter of blood. On the feelings, that was accurate but the sequence may have been a little different.

dcb198633 karma


Richard_Phillips43 karma

I think everyone realizes in the marine industry that this is a true problem and we have to do something about it. I think that ships before and after were taking their own steps, I think safe rooms have become more common and there are a coalition of forces of I think 24 countries that have navies in the Indian Ocean for anti-piracy efforts. So I think it has stepped up, but wherever there is a lack of government control or police, you will always find piracy.

ShubeyD15 karma

It's a pleasure to post with you Captain! It was great to see how great your survival tactics played out. Did the film do a good job of portraying your survival plan? And how does it feel to have a legendary actor play your role as captain?

Richard_Phillips25 karma

Well it is truly surreal to have someone like Tom Hanks play you. Definitely not expected. And he did a great job.

The movie portrayed some of the things that went on, I would not call it a plan. After the pirates boarded it was more ad hoc and doing the best I can. It was a bad situation and I was just trying to do whatever I could, so some of the things the movie did not bring up was the satellite phone trying to call their handlers, and the VHF and radar kept them from using that to their benefit, and basic common sense and doing whatever I could do to try to maintain and regain the control I lost when the pirates boarded.

[deleted]2 karma


Richard_Phillips12 karma

I would say my very best life advice is to find your passion and stay with that. ALways go with your gut and do the best you can. It's a great country we live in and the opportunities are almost limitless.