BLACKWATER Worldwide — the US private military contractor embroiled in controversy over its actions in Iraq — has sent a private sector warship equipped with helicopters to the Gulf of Aden, and is offering its services to shipowners concerned with Somali piracy.How much other heavy weaponry do they have?
The vessel, McArthur, is described as a multipurpose unit designed to support military and law-enforcement training, peace-keeping and stability operations.
The ship and its helicopters have the ability to patrol a commercial vessel’s route, thereby avoiding the need to hire security contractors to ride on board.
Blackwater’s move came just hours before the Indian government confirmed that it intends to deploy a warship in the Gulf of Aden to guard its merchant ships from Somali pirates. The Indian ship will join assets from Russia, Malaysia and a multinational western-dominated coalition in the troubled waters.
Blackwater justifies its presence in the area commercially by pointing to the increased bills for shipowners operating in the region, including massive insurance hikes, double-pay danger money for seafarers, and ransom payments where ships are captured.
Blackwater Worldwide executive vice-president Bill Matthews said: “We have been contacted by shipowners who say they need our help in making sure goods get to their destination. The McArthur can help us accomplish that.”
Blackwater has ties to the US State Department, providing security for diplomatic personnel in conflict zones. In September last year, its staff were involved in a shoot-out in Baghdad that left 17 civilians dead, in contentious circumstances.