by DAVID AXE
In 2007, mercenary firm Blackwater outfitted a 183-foot yacht, pictured, with weapons and helicopter pad in a bid to grab a slice of the piracy-protection business. With hijackings exploding off the coast of Somalia — 100 large ships seized in 2008 alone — more and more shippers were hiring security guards for their vessels or even chartering Tanzanian or Yemeni military vessels for protection.
Blackwater, now called “Xe,” dubbed their pirate-fighter McArthur and advertised the ship’s services to shipping firms. But no one jumped, and McArthur idled at a Virginia port for two years, her crew slowly going crazy.
Blackwater finally gave up and put McArthur up for sale in Spain in recent months, sparking a rather bitter debate between online journalists over the virtues of mercenary pirate-fighters. But one experienced maritime security specialist confirms that the idea, fundamentally, is sound. John Dalby, head of security company Marinerisk, told me last week he is “looking at” buying McArthur. The vessel wasn’t the problem. Blackwater’s reputation for war crimes in Iraq was what prevented the company from getting any work in the piracy-protection biz.
Even so, there’s an even better way to guard against pirates. Instead of hiring separate escort vessels, just place guards like Marinerisk’s aboard ships, Dalby said. “Every ship transiting the area should have four professionals on board — and I don’t mean crews who’ve done a one-week training course in how shoot their fire hoses at pirates.”
More on all this, later.
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Regaining the Initiative against Somali Pirates
World Politics Review: Counterpiracy Mission Targets Seafarers’ Hearts and Minds