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Piracy off the Somali coastline has hobbled shipping in recent years – hiked costs for owners, operators and shippers and thrown hundreds of seafarers into horrendous ordeals. Numerous tactics have been tested to ward off heavily armed men in speedy skiffs but only one has so far proved 100% successful – armed guards. As in modern war zones, private security contractors are increasingly common and are making a lot of money, but they also bring their own risks.

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