Thousands of boats are stolen each year, and some are recovered using alcohol, prostitutes, witch doctors and other forms of guile.
By IAN URBINA
MIRAGOÂNE, Haiti — In Greece, Max Hardberger posed as an interested buyer, in Haiti as a port official, in Trinidad, a shipper. He has plied guards with booze and distracted them with prostitutes; spooked port police officers with witch doctors and duped night watchmen into leaving their posts. His goal: to get on board a vessel he is trying to retrieve and race toward the 12-mile line where the high seas begin and local jurisdiction ends.
Mr. Hardberger is among a handful of maritime “repo men” who handle the toughest of grab-and-dash jobs in foreign harbors, usually on behalf of banks, insurers or shipowners. A last-resort solution to a common predicament, he is called when a vessel has been stolen, its operators have defaulted on their mortgage or a ship has been fraudulently detained by local officials.
“When we show up, things go missing,” said Mr. Hardberger.