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Throughout his life Hardberger has spent a great deal of time in Haiti and has fallen in love with the place and its people. 'Despite what the media latches onto, Haiti is very peaceful,' stated Hardberger, 'and the people are so wonderful and happy despite desperate poverty.'
UNO Alumni Magazine quoting Max Hardberger

Max Hardberger has maintained his ties with the Department of Nippes and the region of Miragoane Bay since his first arrival in the port as a ship captain on Christmas Eve, 1988. One of the world's greatest natural harbors, Miragoane was used by Spanish explorers as a rendezvous point even before the French took possession of the western side of Hispanola. Miragoane Bay is sheltered from the north by Ile Gonave and from the other points of the compass by the mountains that ring the bay. The harbor offers good holding in less than 20 fathoms in the anchorage off the town.

Miragoane was an early gold port when there was still gold being mined in Haiti, and it continues as the country's third largest port. For twenty years, Reynolds Aluminum operated a bauxite mine and port on the southeastern shore of the bay, until a dispute with Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier prompted the company to close the operation in the early Eighties. Since then, the economy of the region has never recovered, and employment is almost as low as that in the rest of the country. Some employment does remain for stevedores, boatmen, chandlers, and others connected with the port.

After Reynolds abandoned the operation (even leaving behind the trucks that brought the ore down from the mountains), the Reynolds property escheated to the Haitian government. Currently, the main Reynolds shed--used to cover the ore--is used by Haitian customs to store cars awaiting nationalization. The rest of the property was unused until 2004, when Max and his Haitian associate, Ronald Joanuel (a prominent character in Max's semi-autobiographical novel Freighter Captain) started the Nippes Development Company S.A. (NIPDEVCO) and obtained 35 acres of the ex-Reynolds property located between the Nippes Road and the bay.

This property includes a deep-water waterfront with a controlling draft of 13 meters. It is reported that bulk carriers of up to 40,000 DWT called at the Reynolds Dock to load ore. The following are a series of photos of the Reynolds Dock, the Reynolds sheds, and the NIPDEVCO property:

  1. Miragoane Bay viewed from the NIPDEVCO property
  2. The Reynolds Dock and Miragoane Bay viewed from the NIPDEVCO property
  3. The Reynolds Dock and the NIPDEVCO cove viewed from the NIPDEVCO property
  4. The Reynolds Dock and the NIPDEVCO property viewed from Miragoane Bay
  5. The Reynolds Dock, the Reynolds sheds and the NIPDEVCO cove viewed from the NIPDEVCO property
  6. The Reynolds sheds viewed from the NIPDEVCO property
  7. The Reynolds Dock viewed from the NIPDEVCO fuel storage tank
  8. The Reynolds Dock and a ship in the NIPDEVCO cove viewed from the NIPDEVCO property
  9. The NIPDEVCO fuel storage tank
  10. The NIPDEVCO fuel storage tank
  11. Aerial view of the Reynolds Dock

In 2004, NIPDEVCO signed a contract with the Authoritie Portuaire National (APN), the Haitian national port authority, under the terms of a UN mandate to rid Haitian waters of hazards to navigation and the environment, to dispose of all wrecked, abandoned, stranded, and otherwise derelict vessels in Haitian waters. Click here to view a photo of a ship in the process of being scrapped at the NIPDEVCO property.

As the facility is currently underutilized (only the waterfront is being used), Max is interested in bringing manufacturing and other business interests to the NIPDEVCO property. "The opportunities are many and varied," he says. "With 40' of water draft alongside, and a completely protected harbor, the property is ideal for any maritime interest, especially for a drydock, in-water ship repair facility, or any manufacturing enterprise that needs low labor costs and easy access to a deep-water port." Max stresses that NIPDEVCO works closely with the regional and local governments, including the Miragoane port authorities, to ensure that foreign investment is protected. He notes that, since the national government of Haiti is relatively weak, maintaining close relations with the local government is especially important.

To promote business in the region, and to provide for emergency medical evacuation (there is no doctor in Miragoane), Max rebuilt the old Reynolds Airport, a mile west of the NIPDEVCO property. The airport had been abandoned for over 20 years and the runway was overgrown with trees and shrubs. NIPDEVCO cleared, lengthened, and smoothed the runway at company expense. Officially reopened on August 12, 2005 as the Wilberforce Airport (named after an American ship captain who aided the Haitians during the 1804 revolution), the airport turns a bone-jarring three-hour ride over the mountains to the outskirts of Port-au-Prince into a pleasant 20-minute flight directly to the international airport on the other side of the city.

Max welcomes inquiries from businesses interested in relocating or expanding to the Miragoane area. For more information, please send an email to

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