The Repo Man of the Seas

Last March, we blogged about a man who repossesses stolen jetliners. Max Hardberger does something similar, but with commercial ships. Here's how, years ago, he got a ship called the Naruda out of Haiti:

He played for time. He pumped the guards with booze and waited for dark before ordering his engineer to lock them into their cabin. It was a toss-up whether they would try to shoot their way out, but they were either too drunk or not being paid enough to bother. Hardberger started the engines, switched off all the lights and sneaked out of harbour. If they were spotted, the Naruda would be seized, and he'd be slung in jail. Only when he was in international waters could he relax. Hardberger called down to the guards. He offered to set them loose in a lifeboat or take them to Venezuela; the choice was theirs. They chose the lifeboat.[...]

Over the years, he's distracted crews with prostitutes and witch doctors, bribed officials to look the other way, conned Russian mobsters and hidden from naval radar by riding out thunderstorms at sea; he's even taken a 10,000-tonne freighter out of Haiti while the 2004 revolution was going on around him. "It's basically a matter of planning," he says. "To get a boat out of port, you need a chief engineer and a one or two crewmen in your team, so everyone has to know exactly what they are doing.

"I make sure we all arrive in port separately. The aim is to draw as little attention to ourselves as possible, so none of us fly in; rather we come in by ferry or cargo ship. I always stay in lowlife hotels in the seediest part of town, as it fits with my usual cover story of a sea captain looking for work. During the daytime I will scope out the port, working out the easiest way to get the boat out of port; it's always best to have a plan where you can board it brazenly, rather than creep on surreptitiously. In the evenings I act the stereotypical drunk captain, tipping my whiskey down the sink while no one is looking. And when it's time, we move in."


Link via Samizdata | Photo: Guardian

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