By Staff Writer | January 1, 2009
It’s been in the news; those tiny pirate ships using automatic weapons to hijack non-military vessels ten times their size in the Gulf of Aden and elsewhere in the region. Of an estimated 100 ships that were attacked off the coast of Africa this year, 14 ships and 250 crewmembers are still being held for ransom as of this writing. And, according to Blackwater Worldwide, such activities have had its phones ringing off the hook with companies seeking privately provided protection for its ships and crews.
Blackwater, the N.C.-based security firm that routinely employs former military special operations pilots and commandos, has been fielding calls from shipping and insurance companies regarding the McArthur, a retired oceanographic survey vessel that Blackwater bought a few years ago and retrofitted to carry two MD500/OH-6 helicopters and support personnel. The 183-ft, multipurpose vessel is already stationed in the Middle East supporting company security personnel under contract with the U.S. State Department and would, it is believed, be an excellent anti-pirating platform.
The ship, if contracted, would provide counter-piracy escorts to clients’ vessels, while Aviation Worldwide Services and Presidential Airways, Blackwater’s aviation subsidiaries, would handle shipborne air support.