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Local Business

Merchant sailor back home in Batavia after pirate attack

Tom Urbik arrived home to a hero's welcome after his ship was attacked by pirates in April.
Tom Urbik arrived home to a hero's welcome after his ship was attacked by pirates in April.

BATAVIA – Last month, 24-year-old Dan Urbik got a scary call from his mother.

She told him that his brother, Tom, 26, of Batavia, was aboard a ship under attack by pirates off the coast of Somalia.

A very short time later, he got another call from his mom, telling him that his brother was out of danger. The pirates had not been able to get aboard.

“I was freaked out for about 5 minutes,” sad Dan Urbik, who lives with his brother and said he is testing to become a Batavia police officer.

Tom Urbik, a 26-year-old merchant seaman, arrived home Monday to a hero’s welcome and a party attended by friends and family.

He said the April 14 attack lasted less than a hour against the Liberty Sun, the ship to which he was assigned as one of 20 crew members.

He has photographs of the hole left in the hull by the impact of a rocket-propelled grenade that had been fired by a pirate.

SEALs from the USS Brainbridge arrived shortly after the pirates left. The Navy’s elite commando unit stayed with the Liberty Sun until it reached a port in Sudan. The ship then moved on to Kenya.

Tom Urbik said one of the interesting things about the SEALs was that they didn’t give their real names. One of the Navy’s elite said his name was “Batman” and another said his name was “Lex Luthor.”

After the Liberty Sun dropped the last of its cargo in Kenya, a platoon of U.S. Marines stayed aboard until the Liberty Sun was out of pirate-infested waters.

“Even when people are not trying to kill you, it’s a dangerous job,” Tom Urbik said of being a merchant marine. “I’m an engineer. If something aboard breaks, I fix it.”

Tom Urbik spends six months out of the year at sea and said he has lived in Batavia for about a year. It’s his episode at sea that turned him into a local celebrity. He’s usually not around enough to get chummy with a lot of people.

“I nod at neighbors when I see them,” Tom Urbik said. “I’m never around. I’m at sea for half of the year.”

Dan Urbik, though, certainly has been noticed more after the incident.

“After the pirate thing, I’ve had people flagging me down, asking about my brother,” he said.

The cargo Tom Urbik’s ship was carrying was about 60,000 tons of food for the hungry in the Darfur region and Somalia.

“It’s a fisherman’s mentality,” Tom Urbik said. “Pirates see a big ship and they go after it. They don’t care what’s on board. They want the ransom.”

But these pirates attacked the wrong ship.

“Other countries don’t sick Navy SEALs on pirates,” he said.

Tom Urbik said the bounding main has its dangers, but he also enjoys the solitude and peacefulness of sailing the high seas and that the job pays well.

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