Thursday, November 20, 2008

66 Companies Contact Blackwater as US Navy Says Private Sector Must Fight Pirates

At least 66 shipping and merchant companies have contacted Blackwater for help in protecting vessels from Islamist pirates off the coast of Somalia.

The US Navy says it's overburdened, and that private companies must ensure their own security. "The coalition does not have enough resources to provide 24-hour protection for the vast number of merchant vessels in the region," says the US Fifth Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Bill Gortney. "The shipping companies must take measures to defend their vessels and their crews."

Blackwater spokesman Anne Tyrell says that the company will offer seaborne and helicopter escort services but will not place private security guards aboard the tankers, freighters, and other ships. The firm's 180-foot helicopter carrier, McArthur (pictured), is reported to be in the area.

"Shipowners are irked by the suggestion they should be protecting themselves," the Toronto Globe and Mail reports. '[What] we are talking about is the fundamental obligation of nations to provide safe passage for world trade,' said Peter Hinchliffe, marine director for the London-based International Chamber of Shipping."

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