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Blackwater offering to protect ships from pirates near Somalia Print
By Jeff Bliss - Bloomberg - October 16, 2008Blackwater Worldwide, whose security guards came under scrutiny after a 2007 fatal shootout in Iraq, is looking to the high seas to expand business, marketing its security services to shippers plagued by pirates.
Blackwater is in talks with several companies about protecting ships traveling through the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia, where piracy is increasing, said officials of the Moyock, North Carolina-based company.

"We have the capability to assist" shipping companies, said Bill Mathews, Blackwater executive vice president. He and other company leaders are former Navy SEALs. Ship security "is kind of what we did for a living" before joining Blackwater, he said.

Blackwater is offering the MV MacArthur, a 183-foot vessel with a crew of 14 and a helicopter pad, as an escort for ships through the Gulf of Aden. The helicopters and MacArthur won't be armed, although workers will carry guns, Mathews said.

The company will need a State Department license to sell its services to a foreign government or business, said Anne Tyrrell, a Blackwater spokeswoman.

The company isn't seeking new U.S. security contracts in Iraq, where a Blackwater team was involved in the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians while guarding a State Department convoy in September 2007. The deaths are being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The State Department paid Blackwater more than $832 million to provide security between 2004 and 2006, about half of the money under a no-bid contract awarded in June 2004.

Security in the Gulf of Aden, which ships traverse to go through the Suez Canal, has been a growing problem. The number of attacks off the coast of Somalia jumped to 44 in 2007 from 10 in 2004, according to the International Martime Bureau. Somali pirates are holding a Ukrainian ship they hijacked last month in a bid for ransom.

Without a secure route to the Suez canal, which 21,080 vessels used in the first half of this year, shippers can either pay more insurance to hedge against losses to pirates or take a longer, more costly route around Africa's Cape of Good Hope.
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