Blackwater has already equipped one vessel, called The McArthur, which will carry up to 40 armed guards and have a landing pad for an attack helicopter.
The McArthur, a former survey ship, arrives in the Gulf of Aden, the scene of the recent high-profile hijackings and shootouts with Somali pirates, at the end of the year. It is to be joined by three or four similar vessels over next year to form the company’s private navy.
According to the Independent, several security companies are rushing to the region despite the presence of British, American, Russian and Indian naval warships, among others, sent to protect ships. For fees ranging from £8,000 to £12,000 for transits of three and five days, companies are offering teams of unarmed guards, “non-lethal deck security personnel”
With more than 60 ships attacked in the Gulf and ship-owners paying an estimated £75m in ransom for the return of crew and cargo, the security companies foresee a lucrative business.
One US company, Hollowpoint Protective Services, says it is offering a comprehensive service of hostage negotiations backed by armed rescue operations if the talks fail. Eos, a British concern, says it favors a “non-lethal” approach with the use of sophisticated laser, microwave and acoustical devices. But Blackwater plans to have the largest and most heavily armed presence among the security contractors. The company believes that the presence of escorting gunboats will have a deterrent effect, with criminal gangs being forced to switch to more vulnerable targets.
A Blackwater spokeswoman, Anne Tyrrell, said there have already been about 15 inquiries about its anti-piracy service. The company refused to reveal how much it will charge. Its executive vice-president, Bill Matthews, said the US Navy and the Royal Navy do not have the resources in the region to provide total security, opening up a role for companies such as his. He added: “While there are temporary needs that perhaps outpace the limited resources of the Department of Defense [Washington] and the Ministry of Defense [London], the private sector is available to fill those gaps.
“We have been contacted by ship-owners who say they need our help in making sure goods get to their destination. The McArthur can help us accomplish that. We have not sought to enter the space until recently. It was not part of our business plan. But as the world changes, so does our business plan.”
New Security Paradigm?
It is clearly no surprise that companies like Blackwater are benefiting in an environment of deteriorating American empire and expansive security vacuums. The current financial climate and inevitable debasement of the dollar as a global currency standard will have additionally devastating effects for the current international security structure and will inevitably lead to more resources being devoted to building up the private security sector. This has repercussions not only for shipping lanes but for terrestrial conflicts, in particular urban civil wars like those ragining in Iraq, where the American military may be forced to leave but where private companies like Blackwater will find a lucrative environment for profit-making going forward.