Thursday, October 16, 2008

Blackwater Ready to Fight Pirates

Press release from here:

BLACKWATER WORLDWIDE’S MARITIME OPERATIONS READY TO ASSIST SHIPPING INDUSTRY

As Insurance and Pay Rates Soar for Gulf of Aden-bound Shipments, Blackwater offers Shipping Industry a Solution

Blackwater Worldwide today announced that its 183 foot ship, the McArthur, stands ready to assist the shipping industry as it struggles with the increasing problem of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and elsewhere.

The dramatic increase of pirate attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden has led to parallel cost increases for the shipping industry. Shipping insurance has risen tenfold this year alone. With the added danger pay offered to crews willing to make the journey, pirate ransom demands that reach into the millions, and lengthy negotiations for hijacked ships, if left unaddressed the cost of the piracy boom to the shipping industry – and consumers buying their goods – will only increase.

“Billions of dollars of goods move through the Gulf of Aden each year,” said Bill Matthews, Executive Vice President of Blackwater Worldwide. “We have been contacted by ship owners who say they need our help in making sure those goods get to their destination safely. The McArthur can help us accomplish that.”

Some shippers have taken the step of arming their crews, or hiring private security to ride onboard cargo ships. Rather than having armed guards on a cargo vessel, the McArthur’s ability to accompany a ship and deploy helicopters to patrol the area provides a safer option for the shipping industry.

The McArthur was reconfigured and modified in 2006 and is now a Blackwater Worldwide Maritime Security Support Craft. The McArthur is a multi-purpose maritime vessel designed to support military and law enforcement training, peacekeeping, and stability operations worldwide. It is fully equipped with a helo deck and can store 4,100 gallons of helo fuel. Blackwater’s aviation affiliate can provide the helicopters, pilots, and maintenance required to support escort missions in the Gulf of Aden.

As a company founded and run by former Navy SEALs, with a 50,000-person database of former military and law enforcement professionals, Blackwater is uniquely positioned to assist the shipping industry in the Gulf of Aden and elsewhere.

The International Maritime Bureau estimates that more than 70 ships have been attacked off Somalia since January. As of October 15, 2008, 11 ships and 200 crew members were still being held for ransom.
The US Navy and Royal Navy have both advised shipping companies to protect their ships. The French are already using private contractors for these purposes. This is the next logical step based on those calls. Unless the citizens of the US are ready to push the US Navy to make this a top priority, something that requires political action, this is seen as one of the limited but cost effective ways for the shipping industry to respond.

Update: Picture of MV McArthur here.

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