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April 6, 2010 — The Broadway Books Imprint of Random House Releases Max Hardberger's Memoirs

With the title of "SEIZED: A Sea Captains Adventures Battling Scoundrels and Pirates While Recovering Stolen Ships in the World's Most Troubled Waters," Max Hardberger's latest book takes readers on a journey through the hellhole ports of the world.

Based on his adventures repossessing ships and sneaking them out of outlaw ports, often under the guns of the navy or coast guard, the book starts with his extraction of the M/V Naruda from an illegitimate seizure in Honduras and ends with his well-known repossession of the M/V Maya Express from Haiti during the worst days of the 2004 revolution. The hardback edition of SEIZED was released on April 6, 2010. To learn more about the Maya Express extraction, please read the Los Angeles Times article below entitled "He's His Own Port Authority".  And click here to read the press release from Random House announcing the release of SEIZED.

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June/July 2010 — High-Seas Repo Man — Men's Journal

Need to sneak a 10,000-ton ship out of a third-world port without a security clearance?  We've got your man.

Max Hardberger has worked variously as a pilot, a high school teacher, a maritime lawyer, and a marine surveyor. But it's his 20 years recovering and repossessing ships and aircraft—the last eight of them as head of his New Orleans-based company, Vessel Extractions—that we were curious about. Here's his story in his own words ... Click here to read the full article. 2 pages (779KB)

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March 1, 2007 — He's His Own Port Authority — The Los Angeles Times

A seafaring 'repo man' uses stealth and trickery to seize cargo ships taken by thieves or corrupt officials

If repossessing a used Chevrolet can be tricky, consider retrieving the Aztec Express, a 700-foot cargo ship under guard in Haiti as civil unrest spread through the country. Only a few repo men possess the guile and resourcefulness for such a job. One of them is F. Max Hardberger, of Lacombe, La. Since 1991, the 58-year-old attorney and ship captain has surreptitiously sailed away about a dozen freighters from ports around the world. “I’m sure there are those who would like to add me to a list of modern pirates of the Caribbean, but I do whatever I can to protect the legal rights of my clients,” said Hardberger, whose company, Vessel Extractions in New Orleans, has negotiated the releases of another dozen cargo ships and prevented the seizures of many others. His line of work regularly takes him to a corner of the maritime industry still plagued by pirates, underhanded business practices and corrupt government officials, waters the Aztec Express sailed right into. The saga began in 2003 when the vessel’s Greek owner died and his company did not keep up payments on a $3.3-million mortgage. Bahamian court records show ... Click here to read the full article. 2 pages (956KB)

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November 15, 2010 — The Bold Man and the Sea — The Guardian

Max Hardberger makes his living by stealing back stolen cargo ships, beating pirates at their own game, from Haiti to Russia. John Crace talks to the the ultimate repo man.

May 1987. The day after the Naruda had finished offloading its rice cargo in Haiti, armed guards boarded the freighter. Moments later the captain, Max Hardberger, had a grubby, badly photocopied piece of paper placed in his hands. "Pour les dettes," the guard said. "What debts?" Hardberger asked. The guard shrugged and said: "It's a matter for the courts. In the meantime my men will remain on board." There were no debts, but that was beside the point. Haiti was a law unto itself; a place where court officials could be bought. And one clearly had been. The Naruda was about to be stolen from under Hardberger's nose. ... Click here to read the full article. 3 pages (772KB)

More of Max in the Media

September 22, 2010 — Extreme Repo — ABC News

Enter Max Hardberger. Like both Popovich and Hall, he backed into the recovery industry as a young man and found that he could make a good living going after people who hadn't kept up their end of a business deal. As the co-owners of Vessel Extractions, LLC, a specialized ship recovery service that operates in some of the most dangerous ports in the world, Hardberger, 61, and his partner Michael Bono may be the exception to Hall's rule.

"There's no question that I definitely get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing bad guys thwarted," Hardberger said. "A lot of people think that I am a pirate and that I play fast and loose with the law." But, the retired ship captain pointed out, his actions have not once been found to be illegal in international court ... Click here to read the full article 4 pages (43KB)

July 2, 2010 — High-Seas Repo Man — TIME

In sea ports the world over, a small bribe paid to a local official allows "white collar pirates" to seize ships from their legitimate owners. To recover the multimillion-dollar vessels, aggrieved ship owners call on Max Hardberger, a maritime lawyer turned high-seas repossession man. In his memoir Seized, which came out in the U.S. on April 6 and in Britain on July 1, he recounts his dangerous battles with Haitian rebels, Caribbean pirates and even the Russian mafia. The sea captain recently spoke with TIME about the murky world of ocean shipping, and how prostitutes and voodoo doctors from Greece to Guatemala have helped him retrieve ships.  Click here to read the full article 2 pages (57KB)

September 30, 2008 — Out-Pirating the Pirates — The Story with Dick Gordon — National Public Radio

Pirates are demanding $20 million ransom for a ship they've seized off the coast of Somalia. They say they're prepared to fight to the death. Max Hardberger has direct experience of high seas piracy. His job is to take back ships that have been pirated, many of them worth millions of dollars, and return them to their rightful owners. Max has worked all over the Caribbean and Latin America - sometimes employing voodoo priests to help him, and at other times using blow torches by moonlight to cut anchor chains. As he tells Dick Gordon, Max enjoys out-pirating the pirates - even when it means occasionally stepping over the legal line himself. Click here to listen.

February 2008 — The Good Pirate — University of Iowa Alumni Magazine

In a life reminiscent of a movie script, a swashbuckling UI alumnus fights for justice on the high seas.

What do you call a man who surreptitiously boards stolen sea freighters under cover of darkness, guiding a motley crew of island natives and sea-weathered sailors to steal the ship back for the good guys? A man who hires witch doctors to help him escape? A man who has spent his 59 years as a ship captain, scuba diver, aircraft pilot, flight instructor, surveyor, attorney, writer, musician, and even a high school English teacher? He must be a fictional character, the stuff of tall tales and action adventure, a Renaissance man larger than life and full of surprises. Is he a Pirate of the Caribbean? A modern-day Indiana Jones? F. Max Hardberger could be a character created by a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Instead, Hardberger, 72MFA, is the workshop graduate. ...  Click here to read the full article. 2 pages (586KB)

Fall 2007 — Freighter Repo Man — University of New Orleans Alumni Magazine

Author, teacher, entrepreneur, crop duster, pilot, freighter captain, port captain, lawyer, ocean-going freighter repo-man and now the subject of a Hollywood movie — that’s UNO graduate Max Hardberger’s life in brief. His adventures were featured in a Los Angeles Times story last spring, and his tales not only caught the attention of the UNO Magazine staff, but of writers and producers in New York and Hollywood. While his life certainly reads like a Hollywood movie, it had a much simpler start. That’s where we begin. 

A Burgeoning Adventurer. Growing up in Thibodeaux, Louisiana, Florian Max Hardberger, Jr., the son of a biology professor, always had a taste for adventure. He was a licensed aircraft pilot at 16 and .... Click here to read the full article.   6 pages (245KB)

April 26, 2007 — Just What the Witch Doctor Ordered — Fairplay International Shipping Weekly

Max Hardberger specialises in extractions, but dentistry this isn’t – although it can be painful. Meet a seagoing repo man who won’t shrink from brinkmanship when negotiation fails

Max Hardberger’s favourite role, since transforming himself from a freighter skipper into a maritime lawyer, is ‘vessel extraction specialist’. Perhaps the reason why is such chores can lead to shenanigans of Indiana Jones proportions. Yet when asked by Fairplay about ship repossessions, he calls extractions “last resorts”, which he carries out only after all other avenues have failed. “Negotiations are the key in returning vessels to their rightful owners,” Hardberger explains, in view of the risk and complexity of repossessing a commercial vessel from what can be a hostile ... Click here to read the full article.   2 pages (797KB)

March 25, 2007 — Agent 00sjø — Dagens Næringsliv Magasinet

(In Norwegian) When a ship is stolen in lawless waters, Mr. Max Hardberger goes into action. He takes care of pirates, mutinying crew, and criminals. Then he steals the vessel back and sets course for a safe harbor. Max Hardberger and his bodyguard drove towards the Miragoane harbor area in Haiti. It was 2004, with riots and criminals ruling the streets. Time would run out in 48 hours. Then the cargo ship “The Aztec Express” would be sold to a criminal. Now the ship lay arrested and tied up at the dock with armed guards on deck. An American businessman had bribed a judge in order to buy it cheap in a prearranged auction, explains Hardberger to DN. He cased the 700’ freighter with binoculars, adopted a Russian accent, passing himself on as a sailor as he drank with ship's officers and sailors in shady bars. He visited brothels where he paid for information. He was told that the guards onboard The Aztec Express were selling fuel on the black market, and that harbor authorities used a cell phone that only had coverage in the vicinity of a close by soccer field. In secrecy he... Click here to read the full article.  2 pages (190KB)

August 2004 — Repo Men:  Stealing for a Living — Repo Adventurer Segment — The Learning Channel

[Host Vincent Pastore] Who in their right mind would go into an unstable country in the middle of a revolution to do business? I’ll tell ya who. Max Hardberger. That’s who. Let me explain this one. The Haitian government is being overthrown. People are killing one another, there’s rioting and looting. Not great times if you live there, but just the right conditions for a repo man whose going to retrieve a $3.5 million ship that’s hiding out in Haiti. Let’s catch up with Max before some witch doctor turns him into pineapple.  Click here to view a 10 minute video clip from this episode.

July 16, 1990 — Commando Action Saves Ship — Florida Shipper Magazine

In a dramatic pre-dawn action, the cargo ship Patric M was snatched from the clutches of judicial blackmail and piloted to safety by her owners. At 2 a.m. in the morning, the ship began a difficult maneuver - navigate without lights, tugs or pilot the narrow four mile passage that separated the ship from freedom. In 26 minutes she reached the seabouy, and at 4 a.m. the ship crossed the 12 mile territorial boundary of Venezuela - well before the operation was detected at daybreak. "With a court order that allowed gangsters to use our ship," said J.P. Maher, president of Morgan Price, the ship's management company. "Our lawyers, some of the best in Venezuela, did not see a legal solution to ... Click here to read the full article.   1 page (290KB)

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