A US Navy warship has arrived off the Somali coast, where the captain of a US-flagged freighter has been taken hostage by pirates.

The ship was briefly hijacked by pirates yesterday but the US crew regained control of the vessel and sought to negotiate their captain's release.

Captain Richard Phillips is being held on a lifeboat.

The Danish-owned freighter's operator, Maersk Line Ltd, confirmed that the US Navy destroyer Bainbridge arrived on the scene before dawn.

Spokesman BJ Talley said the company is in touch with its ship and is also talking with the Navy.

Mr Talley declined comment on what action, if any, the Navy may take.

Maersk earlier confirmed that the US crew had regained control of the 17,000-tonne Maersk Alabama after the pirates left the ship with one hostage.

The seizure was the latest in an escalation in pirate attacks off Somalia.

A spokesman for the company said no injuries had been reported for the rest of the crew left aboard.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, meanwhile, has been called in by the US Navy to assist with the hostage negotiations.

Maritime officials said the Maersk Alabama was carrying food aid for Somalia and Uganda from Djibouti to Mombasa in Kenya when it was seized far out in the Indian Ocean.

The ship seizure, about 500 km off Somalia, is the first time Somali pirates have seized US citizens.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she is very worried by the hijacking and called for world action to end the ‘scourge’ of piracy.

‘We are deeply concerned and we are following it very closely,’ Mrs Clinton said.

However, the lifeboat that the pirates are using to hold the captain has apparently run out of gasoline, according to Mrs Clinton.