Maersk ‘situation room’ buzzes away


Maersk Line Ltd. CEO John Reinhart speaks to reporters on Wednesday following the hijacking incident.
Maersk spokesman Kevin Speers got his version of a 3 a.m. phone call Wednesday, and his cell hasn’t stopped ringing since.

Well into Thursday morning, Speers and about 10 colleagues from Maersk Line Ltd. huddled in a hurriedly made situation room in the company’s Norfolk headquarters. The group was monitoring naval efforts to rescue the captain of their cargo carrier, the Maersk Alabama, who was taken hostage by pirates who hijacked the ship early Wednesday. By early Wednesday afternoon, thanks to several flat-screen televisions, tracking tools to follow the ship’s coordinates and frequent phone contact with the Alabama, the group had learned their crew had retaken the ship. But the ship’s captain was still being held, so the group of Maersk managers settled in for the long haul. They ordered pizza and sandwiches to fuel a work day that stretched late into the night. Speers said employees were hopeful that the U.S. Navy’s efforts would bring a quick and safe resolution to the hostage situation. “We’re optimistic, but remain concerned,” Speers said.

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Some people in the command center fielded phone calls from the crew’s family members on a hotline the company organized to keep them informed.

Speers’ phone had been ringing about every 30 seconds throughout the day as members of the media called for updates. He said the deluge quieted a bit after 11 p.m., though he later started getting calls from Asia. The group had hoped to head home about 3 a.m., leaving time for a little shuteye before a 7 a.m. news conference Thursday. But they ended up deciding to stay the night unless the hostage situation was resolved.

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