Richard “Rich” Phillips: Where is the Marine Captain Now?

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Directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Tom Hanks in the lead role, ‘Captain Phillips’ is the kind of pirate story that shatters the fantasy illusion concocted by ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’ Far from the sense of adventure invoked by the Johnny Depp-starrer, it shows the audience what pirates are like in real life and what it feels like to be attacked by them. The protagonist of the story is Richard Phillips, who is in charge of the vessel carrying food aid to African countries and has to do everything in his power to save himself and his crewmates when they are attacked by Somali pirates. The Paul Greengrass directorial gives us a riveting account of what happened in those few days on the sea, but what has happened to Richard Phillips since then?

Richard Phillips is Keeping Busy Despite Retirement

The retired Captain Richard Phillips lives in Underhill, Vermont, with his wife Andrea, whom he married in 1987. They have two children, Mariah and Daniel AKA Danny. After spending years at sea, even after the debacle that serves as the premise of ‘Captain Phillips,’ he is now enjoying retirement. He spends most of his time with his family. He likes to travel around, especially to places where he can snowboard and snowmobile. Conscious about his health, he goes to the gym 3-4 times a week and loves playing basketball. While retirement has brought him the time to enjoy life more leisurely, Phillips has made himself busier now than he was when he was still working.

Phillips is actively attached to several support groups and foundations that are dedicated to helping veterans, young children, and families who don’t have the same advantages as others. He also ran the Captain Richard Phillips and Lane Kirkland Maritime Trust, which aimed to “serve as the voice of the Maritime Industry in order to raise and maintain awareness of its significant contributions to the nation.” Through the trust, Phillips also focused on fundraising and providing scholarships to students interested in having a career in the US maritime industry. However, the Covid-19 pandemic had an adverse impact on the trust, and it hasn’t been as active since.

Apart from this, Phillips has also authored a New York Times bestseller book about his experience with the Somali pirates. It’s called ‘ A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea’ and was the primary source behind the Tom Hanks movie. He has also appeared in shows like Dateline NBC and The Daily Show with Jon Steward, among others. In 2009, he was featured in NBC’s People of the Year.

Richard Phillips is a Coveted Public Speaker

A graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and a member of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots Union, Phillips spent years working as a merchant mariner, a job that took him to all sorts of places and tested him under all sorts of conditions. This experience has brought him the wisdom he now shares with the world. From high schools and old age homes to universities and charity events, among other things, Phillips has served as a keynote speaker, sharing his experience not just with the pirates but with life in general.

In 2022, he was a speaker at the Ed Fouhy Speaker Series program presented by the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center at Massachusetts Maritime Academy. He has also been a guest speaker at the special screening of ‘Captain Phillips’ where he interacts with the audience and talks about relevant issues at the core of today’s world. He was also a keynote speaker at the commencement ceremonies at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Apart from this, he also appears on radio shows and podcasts to talk about his life before and after the incident. In April 2024, he was a guest speaker at the 8th Annual Whiskey & War Stories Fundraising Gala and Auction at Marriott Virginia Beach Oceanfront Reserve, organized by the Silent Warrior Foundation.

Captain Phillips Faced Backlash From His Crew

To most people, Captain Phillips is a hero, or at least, that’s how the film portrays him. However, some of the crew members of the Maersk Line have spoken out about the misrepresentation of Phillips’ responsibility in the events of the pirate attack and have accused him of jeopardizing their lives by his poor decisions. Following the hijacking and its successful resolution, 11 crew members sued the Maersk Line and the Waterman Steamship Corporation, demanding about $50 million in compensation for the “willful, wanton, and conscious disregard for their safety.”

In the lawsuit, where Phillips spoke for the defendants, fingers were pointed at the captain, where it was alleged that he had ignored multiple warnings by the crew members, who advised him to take a different and safer route rather than taking the path where they were sure to encounter pirates. They also accused Phillips of taking the route that was much closer to the coast of Somalia than is considered safe, in addition to other things. The company settled the lawsuit before it went to trial, but it did raise questions about the company’s responsibility for the safety of the crew as well as the captain’s actions.

In his defense, Phillips has struck down the allegations and explained his decisions as the ones he made, keeping in mind the safety of his crew. He confessed that he had gotten the emails from the authorities to steer about 600 miles clear of the coast of Somalia, but he kept those warnings to himself and didn’t share them with the crew. He said he considered the territory dangerous, be it 600 miles or 1200 miles, and the attack was not a matter of if but when in those waters. Since the lawsuit, no other legal action has been taken against the company or him, and the allegations have also never been legally validated.

Read More: Captain Phillips: Where Was the 2013 Movie Filmed?