A police report about the deaths of two former Navy SEALs on board the Maersk Alabama while the ship was docked this week notes that drugs and paraphernalia were found in the cabin where the men’s bodies were discovered, the shipping line said in a statement Thursday.
The former SEALs were working as security officers aboard the ship that was the focus of a 2009 hijacking dramatized in the movie “Captain Phillips.” They were found dead on Tuesday while the ship was berthed in Port Victoria in the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles.
Seychelles police have given no cause of death for Michael Daniel Kennedy, 43, and Jeffrey Keith Reynolds, 44. The men worked for a Virginia Beach, Va.-based maritime security firm, The Trident Group.
“We are working with the Trident Group to ensure the security personnel on Maersk Line, Limited vessels adhere to Maersk’s zero tolerance policy on the use of drugs and alcohol,” said the statement from Kevin N. Speers, a spokesman for the Norfolk, Va.-based Maersk Line Ltd.
The statement said that based on Maersk’s experience with the contractor, it believed that the deaths were an isolated incident.
But, it said it would confirm that all drug tests, background checks and training requirements were current, retest security personnel for drug use where necessary, audit its hiring, training and performance evaluation practices and re-evaluate shore-leave policy.
“The Trident Group will also immediately implement a random drug testing program to increase the frequency at which it screens security personnel,” the statement said.
The Maersk Alabama left the Seychelles after authorities completed an on-board investigation into the men’s deaths.
On Thursday, Seychelles police spokesman Jean Toussaint noted that officials were awaiting the results of autopsies and said, “As far as I know there is no evidence of physical trauma” on either man’s body.
He also said he was not aware that the Maersk Alabama had been cleared to leave and could not comment on that report. Speers said Thursday that the ship had left port.
The U.S. Coast Guard has said it also is investigating the deaths.
The Maersk Alabama is a Norfolk, Va.-based container ship that provides feeder service to the east coast of Africa and employs security contractors to provide anti-piracy services.
In a statement posted on its website, The Trident Group President Thomas Rothrauff said there “is no immediate indication as to the cause of death, but the deaths were not caused by operational activity.” Rothrauff wrote that the next of kin have asked that no further information be released and that their privacy be respected.
The Trident Group was founded by former Navy SEALs and hires former special warfare operators to perform security. On Thursday, the Navy confirmed that Kennedy and Reynolds belonged to the SEALs, an elite unit of the military’s special operations forces who are sometimes called upon to combat piracy.
In 2009, pirates hijacked the Maersk Alabama in waters off Somalia. Most of the crew members locked themselves in the engine room, but the pirates took Capt. Richard Phillips hostage. A five-day standoff ended when Navy SEALs aboard the USS Bainbridge shot and killed three pirates who were holding Phillips in a lifeboat. The “Captain Phillips” movie starring Tom Hanks as Phillips was released last year.
Kennedy, whose home of record with the Navy was Baton Rouge, La., enlisted in 1995 and completed his final tour of duty in 2008, according to a summary of his record provided by the Navy. Kennedy was assigned to an East Coast-based special warfare unit, according to the record. Virginia Beach serves as the home of the Navy’s East Coast SEAL teams. He had medals for serving in campaigns in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Reynolds, whose home of record with the Navy was Fountain Valley, Calif., enlisted in 1990. He was assigned to a West Coast-based special warfare unit until he was discharged in 2000. He had won two medals for good conduct while in the Navy.
Former military personnel frequently provide security on board ships sailing through the waters off Somalia to provide security against pirate attacks. Kennedy and Reynolds boarded the ship Jan. 29, Speers said.
The Alabama transports food aid to East Africa in support of the U.S. government’s “Food for Peace” program, according to Maersk Line. Crew members also help support the Bee Hive Children’s Home in Mombasa, Kenya.
Several crew members who were aboard the ship when it was hijacked in 2009 are suing Maersk Line and Mobile, Ala.-based Waterman Steamship Corp.
Nine crew members in the lawsuit, filed in Alabama in 2012, say they suffered physical and emotional injuries after Somali pirates boarded.