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L_Monty
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SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

[ Edited ]

Hi, everyone. Welcome to the "official" First Look discussions for Max Hardberger's

Seized : A Sea Captain's Adventures Battling Scoundrels and Pirates While Recovering Stolen Ships in the World's Most Troubled Waters.

As always, please avoid spoilers by asking/talking only about chapters 1-8.

I have some other questions about these chapters, but the one that stood foremost in my mind concerned the Aldorf/Professor Kurilov. With a career like old-ship buying, it seems Mr. Hardberger necessarily had to deal with large numbers of leaking/shedding/cracking hulks. Some wound up later crashed against beaches; some wound up still in service but ailing even more. With the Aldorf, we find a ship brimming with diesel fuel of indeterminate quality, in a deliberate circumvention of coastal environmental regulation/port regulation, etc. And it struck me, a lot of these ships sound like they're essentially environmental disasters waiting to happen, or happening slowly under the table already.

What I wondered is, how common is this? How much worse is it on the ships Mr. Hardberger wouldn't even go near? How bad is the stuff we don't even hear about? And, if there really are owners and crews out there with no concern whatsoever about the health of their ships, how many safe ships erode into potential disasters every year?

 

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dhaupt
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

I also wondered about the safety of all those ships out there going from one owner to the next, some ships of indeterminate age and wear. But it seemed most of these questionable ships ended up in ports where the restrictions weren't as hard and officials could be paid off as easily as having the ship repaired and cheaper.

And like you said Monty I imagine it's much worse than we could imagine, just hearing the stories that Max recounted about deaths and injuries and the sailors being stuck where they land with no means or opportunity to get home.

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DSaff
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

My favorite chapter in this section was about the Percival J. I kept reading past tiredness to see if they made it through the drifting. Would they get away without the guards interrupting? Would they hit a reef? Would them make it to International waters? These questions kept me guessing until the end. LOL  

 

I also enjoyed Annie's Revenge, but as at other times in the book, thought the lines blurred between the good guys and the bad guys. Max, did they ever blur for you? Did you wonder who was really on your side during one of these capers?

 

DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
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DSaff
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

I hated reading that the sailors were stranded in foreign ports! Does no one hold these "companies" accountable?

 

Safety didn't seem to be a huge factor in some of the transactions. I wondered if there really were the somewhat skimpy inspections we read about, or if they were more involved that Max didn't include. It is hard to believe that there wasn't more to it, but sometimes I think Max took too many people's words for it! Even knowing that Max is here to talk to us, there were moments on the Devi Parek that I wasn't sure he or anyone else would make it. Great job pulling me into the story, Max!  =)

 

dhaupt wrote:

I also wondered about the safety of all those ships out there going from one owner to the next, some ships of indeterminate age and wear. But it seemed most of these questionable ships ended up in ports where the restrictions weren't as hard and officials could be paid off as easily as having the ship repaired and cheaper.

And like you said Monty I imagine it's much worse than we could imagine, just hearing the stories that Max recounted about deaths and injuries and the sailors being stuck where they land with no means or opportunity to get home.

 

DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
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momofprecious1
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

My favorite part in this section was "Annie's Revenge". I admired the way Annie stood up to Milo's. She had a lot of spunk in her.  I wasn't surprised when Milo's took off with their visa's. I was really scared for them & thought they were in a lot of danger with the Russian mafia, they were really lucky to escape without injury. I guess Milo's wasn't aware that "what goes around comes around". Annie got Milo back by contacting INS & having him & his family deported.

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Max-Hardberger
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

Dear Monty

 

At its heart, ocean shipping is exactly like every other business, with its most distinguishing feature the need for a ship. As long as a ship is floating and running, it's an asset, no matter how bad it is. The owner may know his ship's a danger to the crew and cargo, but unless he carries cargos and hires a crew to run her, he can't make money off her. So just as there are owners who order new ships to be built in the world's best shipyards, there are owners who operate at the bottom, running old ships in the cheapest way possible.

 

No crewman wants to work on a bad ship, but the competition for jobs is stiff, and the best crews get the best ships. Many seamen--even good ones--have to work on whatever ship they can get a berth on, just to feed their families.

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Max-Hardberger
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

Debbie

 

I know many heartbreaking stories of abandoned crewmen; I could only tell a couple in SEIZED. It's an international disgrace and a blot on the faces of the countries that refuse to repatriate their nationals. I am proud of the fact that all a US citizen has to do is make his way to the nearest consulate, and he will get food, clothing, shelter, even a free flight home. But many countries have no such fund, and I have known men--good, competent seamen--who died of starvation and lack of medical attention in third world ports. My praise for the Seamen's Church of New York in SEIZED for their untiring efforts in repatriating crewmen of every nation was sincere and heartfelt.

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Max-Hardberger
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

Donna

 

I don't generally have much trouble telling the good guys from the bad guys. Of course, my partner, Michael Bono, and I investigate every prospective client's background and the details of the seizure, and we won't act on behalf of someone without a clear and immediate possessory right, or in a matter where a ship has been seized for a legitimate debt, or in a country of law, like the US, Canada, the UK, etc.

 

Once I establish that the ship has been wrongfully removed or sequestered from the client's possession, I act on the presumption that my opposition are the bad guys. So once we take on a case, I know who the bad guys are!

 

Your question about wondering who's on my side during an extraction is a good one. There've been many times when I didn't know whom to trust--I had to trust my instincts. Luckily, so far I've been generally right.

 

Best regards

 

Max

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Max-Hardberger
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

Mom

 

I talked to "Annie" (not her real name, of course), a few weeks ago. It was fun remembering our epic trip to Vladivostok. There are some funny stories about her that I couldn't include in SEIZED (it's long enough as it is!). You may remember Mike Loft (again, not his real name), the second engineer on the ALDORF in Belgium. Well, a couple of years after that, he got a job on a freighter on the Snohomish River in Seattle that Annie had sold to a Haitian. When the buyer failed to make payment, she ordered his crew off the ship, but Mike refused to leave because he didn't have anywhere to go. Whenever she came to the ship, he hid. Finally, she went onboard with a baseball bat and found his hiding place in the engine-room . He ran on-deck with her swinging away right behind him. He had a bicycle on the dock next to the ship, and the last she saw of him he was pedaling away for his life.

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momofprecious1
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

Max,

 

I was reading your responses & was wondering who "Mom" is when it suddenly hit me that it's me...ha,ha,ha. I'm so sorry I forgot to sign my post.:smileysurprised:

 

Sounds like you can write a book just on stories about Annie. I could  actually picture Annie running around with a bat & a grown man hiding from a woman and then pedaling away on his bike. I was laughing so hard that my husband insisted on knowing why all the laughter. Unfortunately, I cannot tell him right now because he is not up to that chapter yet.

 

 

Tuscania

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vpenning
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

I too enjoyed how Annie got her revenge.

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lg4154
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

I especially liked how Annie got her revenge as well. Good stuff!!!

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yarpirate
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

The weather in these chapters really seemed to be in the author's favor.  I'm curious;  how common is this?  Is bad weather mostly avoided by keeping up to date with forecasts?  (But really, if you're on a deadline, can you even plan around storms?  It seems if these ships needed to get out right away before they're auctioned off, a storm could really throw a wrench into the plans.)

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MSaff
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

 

I also found these chapters rather interesting.  We read in these chapters of the poor condition of most of the ships Max is having to deal with.  What I don't understand is how a ship owner can allow his or her investment to deteriorate into such a mess.  We read how many of these ships were seized by various countries for one reason or another, but I would have thought that even those countries would have attempted to keep the sailing vessels seaworthy, so in the event the ship was sold, they could get a better price. 

  The Aldorf, was a prime example of a bomb just waiting to explode.  At least that is my opinion.  The other thing that concerned me here is the weight constraints.  With all that fuel onboard, and not necessarily in the right locations, I would have thought it was just to hazardous a job to try and move it out to sea.  

  My question to Max here is this.  What criteria are you looking for when I accept a job to take a ship for a prospective employer?  I trust you do have a limit as to what you will take on for the danger factor.

 

 

 

I have some other questions about these chapters, but the one that stood foremost in my mind concerned the Aldorf/Professor Kurilov. With a career like old-ship buying, it seems Mr. Hardberger necessarily had to deal with large numbers of leaking/shedding/cracking hulks. Some wound up later crashed against beaches; some wound up still in service but ailing even more. With the Aldorf, we find a ship brimming with diesel fuel of indeterminate quality, in a deliberate circumvention of coastal environmental regulation/port regulation, etc. And it struck me, a lot of these ships sound like they're essentially environmental disasters waiting to happen, or happening slowly under the table already.

What I wondered is, how common is this? How much worse is it on the ships Mr. Hardberger wouldn't even go near? How bad is the stuff we don't even hear about? And, if there really are owners and crews out there with no concern whatsoever about the health of their ships, how many safe ships erode into potential disasters every year?

 

 

 

Mike
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." Dr. Seuss
http://travelswithcarsandbooks.blogspot.com/
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Bitter_Bierce
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

Could you explain the cement blocks. I was trying to get my head around how those worked. I'll admit I know nothing of ships and it was around this time that I just got a little lost in the nautical terms. Annie's revenge was a great story. Did you have a lot of run-ins with mafia (that aren't mentioned in the book) and is that a major worry in the shipping business? Finally, what was your closet call. Was it in the book or was there another one that you seriously thought "I'm dead" or "I'm going to jail" and narrowly escaped at the end? Great read.
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Max-Hardberger
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

Dear Pirate

 

 

yarpirate wrote:

The weather in these chapters really seemed to be in the author's favor.  I'm curious;  how common is this?  Is bad weather mostly avoided by keeping up to date with forecasts?  (But really, if you're on a deadline, can you even plan around storms?  It seems if these ships needed to get out right away before they're auctioned off, a storm could really throw a wrench into the plans.)

 

 

I wouldn't say the weather's been in my favor overall. It helps to know how to forecast the weather, and there are times when being able to predict the weather--for example, knowing that during a certain season the wind in the Caribbean almost invariably comes out of the northeast to east--is very handy. But I've had some tough times in bad weather as well, like the time I took the Devi Parek out of Honduras and ran into a hellish storm.

 

Nowaways, ships certainly do follow weather routing--determining their course by forecast weather--but to some degree, a 10-knot ship (the standard speed for ocean freighters) just isn't fast enough to avoid weather, and a good ocean ship needs to be able, if properly handled, to take whatever the sea can throw at her.

 

You're right that if you have to get a ship out before a deadline, like an auction date, a storm could throw a wrench in your plans, but it can also be a big help. I once used a storm to hide from the radars on a Dominican warship because I knew that its radars wouldn't be able to see me through the rain-clutter (interference caused by the radar beams bouncing back from raindrops).

 

Best regards

 

Max

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Max-Hardberger
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

Dear Msaff

 

 

MSaff wrote:

 

What criteria are you looking for when I accept a job to take a ship for a prospective employer?  I trust you do have a limit as to what you will take on for the danger factor.

 

 

 

My basic criterion is that the client have an immediate possessory right to the ship under international law. After that, I have to evaluate the situation on the ground and decide whether the risk is acceptable. There have been a number of time when I was asked to take on a job (not just in this field but in many different fields) and turned it down because it was just too dangerous. I had a job recently where the country involved is such a rogue state that its warships would have ignored international law and would have fired on and interdicted the ship I was trying to take out even in international waters. I could never figure out a way to do the job without my crew and myself running an unacceptable risk, so Michael Bono, my partner, and I had to turn the job down.

 

Best regards

 

Max

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Max-Hardberger
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

Hey, Bitter

 

 

Bitter_Bierce wrote:

Could you explain the cement blocks.

 

 

Cement is used for temporary repairs in ship hulls. The hole in the hull should be repaired properly as soon as possible, but you can imagine that shipowners will want to put off the lost time and expense of drydocking a ship to repair a hole in the hull, so some owners will let the ship just keep on trading with these temporary repairs.

 

What you do is you put a piece of rubber (or even a slab of bacon!) against the hull from the inside of the ship, inside the "double-bottom tanks" that line the hull at the bottom, and you force it against the steel with braces or even a car jack, if you have one. With enough pressure, you can stop the water from coming in. Then you mix up cement and pour it all around the plate, leaving the brace or jack in place. When the cement hardens, the hole should be sealed. However, if the hull flexes too much--like in the Devi Parek--the steel breaks away from the cement and the leak starts again. This time you're really in trouble--now you have a cement box in the way and you can't try to pour another one, so if you can't beach the ship somewhere (deliberated run her aground) or go immediately into drydock, the ship could sink.

 

 

Bitter_Bierce wrote:

Did you have a lot of run-ins with mafia (that aren't mentioned in the book) and is that a major worry in the shipping business?

 

 

No, I've run into a lot of organized crime outfits, but I wouldn't call them mafia. The mafia isn't a major worry in the shipping industry (although the Italian/Sicilian mafia does control some US ports in the Northeast) because the business is too wide-open. There's no "territory" like Brooklyn or South Bronx for a large criminal gang to control.

 

 

Bitter_Bierce wrote:

Finally, what was your closet call. Was it in the book or was there another one that you seriously thought "I'm dead" or "I'm going to jail" and narrowly escaped at the end."
I've had so many close calls it's hard to say which was the closest. I've had a lot of close calls in airplanes, not so many in ships. Some hairy moments in sailboats--really hairy moments. I think the scariest moment in my extraction career was the time I thought the Maya Express had gone aground. I was getting pretty worried about the prospects of going to prison in Haiti at that moment.
Best regards
Max

 

 

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krb2g
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

MSaff's question was exactly the one I had as I was reading the book (and as I just alluded to in my post on chapters 1-4)--how do you know which ships are morally OK for you to steal? While Captain Max's answer here is helpful, I had surmised that his answer would be similar to the one given here by a variety of the stories throughout the book, but most especially through the chapter Annie's Revenge. At that point it became clear to me that while some of the best stories in the book are about coming in and strong-arming ships away from evil regimes/unsavory people, there's a lot of back work that goes into making sure the ships are fair game.

 

On a side note, I really enjoyed the trip into a Russia that had just opened to foreigners. It's one of the many places that I'll never go myself (at least, now I think things are easier) and I really appreciated the chance to see what it was like.

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MsReaderCP
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Re: SEIZED, by Max Hardberger, Chapters 5-8

I am having difficulty with this question because I am not a current events person when it comes to environmental issues!!  But I notice that some people are commenting on chapters or parts of the book they liked.  When I first began reading these chapters, I thought that the author did not convey his fear enough to me.  He could go to prison for life in Venezuela, so be sure and do it right, in his nice guy attitude that he always had - not hurting his captives etc.  But it was when he spoke of his home; wife, family that I really felt the danger.  I needed to feel the danger more and for me, that would have come across more, not with just telling me he could go to prison for life, but by making me feel those consequences with him - my kids will never see me again, basically they will never know me!  That is a nightmare to me!!!  I'm a female, maybe motivations, fear are different for males.