While transporting aid to Africa in April 2009, the US-flagged Maersk Alabama was seized by Somali pirates. Cpt. Richard Phillips volunteered to be held hostage in order to protect his crew. He was detained for five days until US Navy snipers launched a daring rescue.
In an appearance on The Daily Show a year later, Mr. Phillips recalled how the gunmen had initially approached the unarmed ship. "I was shooting flares, doing a jack-in-the-box scene, while they were shooting AK-47s up at me," said the author of "A Captain's Duty," a memoir of the experience.
"You've only 20 guys on this giant boat. Can't one guy be, like, 'rifle guy?' " replied host Jon Stewart.
"I think we are heading in the right direction for that," said Phillips. It is illegal for sailors to carry weapons, although cargo transporters are increasingly turning to private security contractors to arm ships.