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Crew of US ship arrested: UK seeks consular access

Chennai, Oct 18 () : Crew of the American ship detained near Tuticorin have been arrested. British Embassy has asked India to provide consular access to the six crew members of British nationality and a copy of the charges against them.

35 crew members of the American ship were detained a week ago for illegally entering Indian territorial waters with a cache of arms and ammunition. The MV Seaman Guard Ohio flying a Sierra Lone flag is owned by US maritime security company AdvanFort. Its crew includes eight Indians.

The ship had been in Indian waters for three days before it was detected by the Coast Guard. According to the police, the crew bought diesel from shipping boats without any permission from Indian authorities and maintained no log book of the arms on board.

The ship was carrying 34 assault rifles and 4,000 rounds of ammunition on board, which were all seized by the Coast Guard. The weapons were handed over to the Central Industrial Security Force ( CISF).

The crew consisting of British, Estonian and Ukranian nationals, was found to have bought 1,500 litres of diesel illegally from a local fishing boat. It was a rival fishing boat that tipped off the Coast Guard of the sale.The ship had docked in Kochi 45 days ago but it had no arms, say port authorities.

NSA investigating the ship says that it could be used as a floating armoury for private security agencies guarding ships against pirates. The security agency AdvanFort’s version is that the ship entered the Indian waters to evade the fury of cyclone Phailin, but the ship was picked from where the cyclone did not travel.
The incident highlights the absence of regulations in the use of private and military armed guards on ships for guarding against pirate attacks.

Last year in February, two Indian fishermen were shot dead by two Italian marines guarding an oil tanker off the Kerala coast. The marines were arrested and are currently facing trial. Shipping Minister GK Vasan said the ship will not be allowed to move out till the probe gets over.

Tamil Nadu Police ‘Q’ branch began its investigation with the case being transferred to it from the marine wing. National security agencies too have begun probe.