Photo Gallery
Radio Interviews
Video Clips
Events & Appearances

Florian Max Hardberger, Jr., was born in 1948 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and grew up in Thibodaux, Louisiana. His father was a biology professor and his mother a grammar-school teacher. 

Max received his high school education at the Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, Tennessee, and graduated in 1966. He became a licensed aircraft pilot in 1965 at the age of 16.

Max initially attended Nichols State in Thibodaux, Louisiana for his college education then transferred to the University of New Orleans for another two years of study. In 1969 he graduated early with a BA in English. During college, Max became a SCUBA diver, skilled sailor and navigator.

After he graduated from college, Max taught English in Mandeville, Louisiana, and worked as a newspaper reporter in Houma, Louisiana, then travelled through Mexico and Belize in an old school bus. He returned to the U.S. to attend the renowned program in creative writing at the University of Iowa (informally known as the "Writer's Workshop"), where he received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Fiction and Poetry in 1972. After another stint teaching high school English in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Max worked as a deckhand and mate on oilfield supply vessels in the Gulf of Mexico and earned a captain's license. In 1976, he attended the Dresser-Magcobar Drilling Fluids School in Houston and worked as a drilling fluids consultant in the Gulf of Mexico and Latin American oilfields. In the late Seventies, he earned his commercial, instrument, and multi-engine aircraft ratings and held various flying jobs, including aerial photography support, towing banners, and aircraft delivery.

In the early Eighties, Max worked in the oilfields of Guatemala (in the Peten region, the center of the then-furious civil war), delivered airplanes to Central America, and taught flying. He did nightly check runs for banks, towed banners, dusted crops, and even delivered corpses for mortuary services. To be home during his wife's pregnancy and the birth of his daughter, in 1984 he took a job as an English and history teacher at Pope John Paul II High School in Slidell, Louisiana, where he taught his future law and business partner, Michael Bono.

He returned to cropdusting in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, the following year, then, after his employer went out of business in the middle of the season, he went to Miami and took a job as cargo-ship master. His first novel, Freighter Captain, was based on a series of voyages he made in the late Eighties. In 1989, he left the sea and joined Morgan Price & Company in Miami as a port captain for the company's ships.

In 1990, during his employment with Morgan Price, Max performed his first extraction of a vessel when he removed the M/V Patric M from an illegitimate Venezuelan seizure. Click here to read an article on this operation entitled Commando Action Saves Ship. Max left the company in 1991 to form his own marine consulting and surveying business in Louisiana. He also worked as a private investigator, specializing in marine fraud and casualty investigation. During that time, following industry awareness of his extraction of the Patric M, a number of shipowners turned to him for help in recovering their ships from illegitimate seizures in outlaw ports. 

In the late Nineties, he joined Martin, Ottaway, van Hemmen and Dolan, a well-known international marine consulting and surveying firm, and gained admission to federal courts in Louisiana and Texas as a maritime expert. He wrote over a hundred articles for WorkBoat Magazine, and had articles published in Maritime Reporter, National Fisherman, Marine Money, and the US Department of Transportation's Maritime Security Handbook. In 1994, Max published his first book, Deadweight: Owning the Ocean Freighter, a textbook on ship ownership. He followed this with his 1998 novel Freighter Captain, a semi-autobiographical account of his adventures as a ship captain in the Caribbean.

In 1998, Max earned a JD degree from Northwestern California University Law School in Sacramento, California, and was admitted to the California bar. He established a law practice representing vessel owners, underwriters, charterers, shippers, receivers, shore suppliers, and other maritime interests. Click here to learn more about The Hardberger Law Firm

In 2001, Max formed the ship repossession company Vessel Extractions, LLC (“VessEx”) with his former student and fellow maritime lawyer Michael Bono. As operations manager, he conducts extractions of vessels that have been illegitimately detained or seized in foreign countries. Click here to learn more about VessEx. In the company's most sensational operation, Max removed a 10,000-ton freighter from Haiti during the middle of country's 2004 revolution. This operation was featured in The Learning Channel series, Repo Men: Stealing for a Living, in an August, 2004 segment entitled "Repo Adventurer. Click here to view part of that episode. This operation also was the subject of a front page feature article in the Los Angeles Times. Click here to view the article. That article spawned a flurry of projects that currently occupy much of Max's time, including a book for Random House and an unscripted television show for a major television network. Click here to learn more about these projects. 


Long Beach - 2007

Aboard the Erika - 1988

Teaching in Louisiana - 1984

Belize - 1979

Iowa - 1972

Site Map | Terms of Use
 © F. Max Hardberger. All rights reserved.