Piracy puts us on the big screen

Is it unfair to say that Tom Hanks is the next to actually stand to benefit from the scourge of piracy off the Somali coast? Breaking news from Hollywood at the beginning of the week names the actor as the chosen lead in a film depicting the true-life drama that played out on board the Maersk Alabama when it was captured by pirates. The film is to be based on the book by Captain Richard Phillips who was in charge of the vessel at the time.

Tom Hanks is an actor who can demand up to $30 million per movie plus profit participation which, in the case of Forest Gump, saw him walk away with $70 million. That’s not a bad pay check – higher in fact than most pirates’ ransoms!

In the 15 years that I have been reporting on the maritime industry for specialist publications – piracy has been the topic that I have received the most calls from the daily newspapers for information on. It’s unfortunate that this is the reality that has catapulted the world of shipping into the headlines and it does nothing for the industry’s very real need to attract youngsters into a career at sea.

Indeed most feature films depicting aspects of the maritime world revolve around disaster. That many are based on true stories does not bode well for the image of the industry, but then where would the drama be in plain sailing?

And so while legal, emergency and medical vocations are glamourised in shows such as ER, Gray’s Anatomy, LA Law and so forth – surely a case can be made for a series that follows the lives of a crew across the globe. It’s a perfect set-up for a show that relies on the need to focus on the relationships between a small group of people who interact on a daily basis. Yes, certainly there will be incidents that will do nothing to attract new seafarers – but on the whole it may go a long way towards promoting the industry by exposing more people to the fact that there are other options for them outside of being a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman or a firefighter.

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