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Below is a collection of newspaper and magazine interviews given by the Operations Director of VessEx, Capt. Max Hardberger.


Featured Interview — 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)

Featured Interview— March 1, 2007 —  He's His Own Port Authority — 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)

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)

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 Int'l 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)
October 2002 — Last Best Chance: Analysis of the Pre-Financing Ship Survey — Marine Money

Prudent lenders now require a current survey of the ships they are considering for marine financing, but the analysis of a marine survey is an art in itself. Considering that most marine financiers ultimately base their lending decisions on the vessel’s survey report forwarded by the loan applicant, a careful review of the information contained in this report, both stated and implied, may be the lender’s last best chance to protect himself from investment in a substandard vessel ... Click here to read the full article.  5 pages (57KB)

June 2002 — Wasting Assets: Deteriorating Ship Condition in Shipping Finance — Marine Money

One of the major factors in the success or failure of a shipowning enterprise is the physical condition of the vessel. But with the utilization of contract management in modern shipping, shipowners increasingly find themselves removed from their vessels. Even further removed are mortgagees, bondholders, or shareholders who have an interest in the vessel, but no ability actively to monitor—much less control—the ship’s day to day operations. Often, their grasp of the vessel’s condition, her trading market, and her asset value recede to the background as financial, corporate, and legal considerations take the foreground.... Click here to read the full article.  4 pages (64KB)

March 13, 2002 — VessEx Offers Ship Repossession — Tradewinds

The newly launched Vessel Extractions (VessEx) hopes to take advantage of the tumultuous shipping environment by offering “extraction” services to shipowners.

Max Hardberger, operations director of the San Francisco-based ship recovery company, told TradeWinds Tuesday that VessEx may begin its first case within the next few days.  “We’re talking to New York maritime lawyers, and we should be handed our first case within the next few days,” he said.

VessEx offers repossession of ships for mortgagees, and assistance to shipowners whose vessels have been seized, detained, abandoned or stolen.  VessEx is run by Hardberger and Michael Bono, the company’s managing director... Click here to read the full article.  1 page (161KB)

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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