They're Who You Call When Pirates Strike

Monday, December 1, 2008

Corporate Risk International, a firm that specializes in negotiating with kidnappers, is looking to capitalize on the surge in pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden and elsewhere.

James J. McWeeney, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Reston-based company, said the firm has begun offering its negotiating services to ships concerned about a vessel being seized.

The company is also partnering with Veritas, a London-based maritime security firm, which offers armed security on vessels as well as tactical training for captains and crew members that he said could help ships evade pirates. The companies' services are intended to be sold as a package.

Piracy has reportedly been on the rise this year, particularly in the Gulf of Aden, near Somalia. Negotiators at Corporate Risk have resolved more than 465 kidnappings, extortions and illegal detentions around the world since 1993, McWeeney said.

The company charges about $2,000 a day for each one of its negotiators deployed to an incident, McWeeney said, though the price can vary depending on a situation.

Dealing with pirates who have commandeered a ship can have its own particular nuances, McWeeney said. The fact that the abductions and ransom deliveries occur on water is one of the trickiest aspects. A separate vessel and a skilled crew would be needed to deliver any ransom money, he said, another reason the company was partnering with Veritas.

"Pirates take the money and they take off, so you have to bring gas out there, or a new captain, because sometimes the current captain is not in any shape to take us back," McWeeney said.

Corporate Risk was established in 1991 and since 1993 has been on an exclusive retainer with the Professional Indemnity Agency, which covers some insurance holders of Lloyd's of London.

-- Alejandro Lazo

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