A privateer was a civilian ship serving a governmental organization in a paramilitary role, or a member of its crew. Often what was basically legitimized pirates, a privateer captain would operate under a government contract known as a letter of marque and reprisal, giving him authority to harass, seize and destroy the shipping of another organization—typically one that was considered an enemy in times of war.
In the Galactic Civil War, the Rebel Alliance would hire a number of privateers to harass Imperial shippings, a policy supported particularly by Ral'Rai Muvunc of Ordnance and Supply. After the Battle of Endor, the use of privateers by the New Republic shrank considerably, reflecting the increased size and status of the fleet under Admiral Ackbar, who had always opposed their use. However, Imperial Moffs and warlords started issuing their own letters of marque, and during the crisis of the reborn Emperor, the New Republic would once more make use of privateers. By 11 ABY, privateering sponsored by the New Republic, as well as by the Imperial Remnant was nearly completely phased out.
Privateers were also common in the Hapes Cluster, where they seem to have served the interests of political factions in the Hapes Consortium. Prince Isolder famously went undercover with the crew of Corellian pirate Grov Bricker to track down Harravan, the Hapan privateer who killed his brother, Kalen.
Other governments that issued letters of marque included the Allied Tion sector and the Centrality. Some corporations also sponsored privateer-like mercenaries, including TaggeCo, Santhe/Sienar Technologies, SoroSuub Corporation, the Corporate Sector Authority and the Mining Guild.
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