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LI firm: Liberty Sun crew safe after pirate attack

The Long Island company that owns the ship attacked by pirates Tuesday owns seven vessels that transport everything from vehicles and humanitarian food aid to military goods and personnel.

According to its corporate Web site, Liberty Maritime Corp. is "one of the largest independent private U.S.-flagged shipping companies."

A man speaking through a pane of glass from inside the offices of the firm's headquarters in a Lake Success suite declined to identify himself or open the office door Wednesday.

One day after one of the company's ships, the Liberty Sun, was attacked by Somali pirates as it was transporting humanitarian food aid to Mombasa, Kenya, the man, speaking through the window, simply said: "Everyone's fine."

He said statements would be released through "the appropriate channels at the appropriate time."

The warship USS Bainbridge arrived about six hours after the attack and determined that the pirates had left after firing rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons and none of the crew of about 20 were injured, U.S. officials said.

The ship had left Houston with a load of humanitarian food aid for the U.N. World Food Program, according to The Associated Press.

The Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer, captained by Bellport native Cmdr. Frank X. Castellano III, had been instrumental in bringing an end to a prior pirate attack as U.S. Navy Seals snipers on its deck shot and killed three Somali pirates who had taken another ship's captain hostage last week.

Liberty Maritime, founded in 1988 by Great Neck native Philip J. Shapiro, owns the dry-goods bulk carrier Liberty Sun - attacked by the pirates Tuesday morning as it headed to Mombasa, Kenya.

Liberty Maritime owns five other ships - Liberty Eagle, Liberty Glory, Liberty Grace, Liberty Spirit and Liberty Star and another ship, a vehicle carrier named Alliance New York, which is jointly owned by Liberty and Alliance Navigation Llc. Shapiro also owns Alliance Navigation.

"The Liberty fleet has distinguished itself as an outstanding carrier of U.S. origin overseas food aid shipments for various U.S. government agencies including the departments of Agriculture, State, and Defense over the last twenty one years," the Lake Success-based Liberty states in a biographical section on Shapiro, 56, of Glen Head.

"The Liberty fleet," the statement reads, "has carried cargo for many multinational grain houses and is the largest food aid carrier for the United Nations' World Food Program."

The corporate bio said Shapiro grew up in Great Neck and graduated from Great Neck North High School in 1970. According to the company, Shapiro graduated from Columbia University and attended law school at Hofstra University. Prior to founding Liberty, he was vice president and general consul of Apex Marine Corp. - at the time, the largest privately owned U.S. tanker owner-operator with more than 26 ships.

He also practiced corporate and real estate law.

Liberty chief financial officer and secretary Dale B. Moses, a native of Portland, Ore., is a Huntington resident.

Company vice president of engineering, Thomas F. Keenan, grew up in Bayside, and graduated from Holy Cross High School and SUNY-Maritime. He lives in Lattingtown.

According to the Liberty Web site, the shipping company "has other military and liner container experience."

In 1989, according to the site, "Liberty created a related entity, Polaris Shipping Inc., which managed three break bulk / liner vessels on charter to the Military Sealift Command ("MSC") for two years.

"These vessels were participants in Operation Desert Storm, delivering military equipment, supplies and ammunition to U.S. forces deployed in the Persian Gulf."

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