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M/V Seaman Guard Ohio Remains Detained in Indian Port

The Sierra Leone-flagged M/V Seaman Guard Ohio, chartered by Washington, D.C.-based AdvanFort International, reportedly carrying 10 crew members and 25 armed security personnel with their weapons, is still being detained by Indian authorities.

According to media reports, the Indian Coast Guard intercepted and detained the vessel with concerns about improper fuel purchases and possession of guns and ammunition.

“The master is currently in jail, and the ship is alongside the pier unattended with the engines running. Our crew is distraught and distressed. The chief engineer is devoted to his ship, and the Indians are looting everything. The chief engineer was observed tying himself up to the mast with a noose,” Watson said.

According to William H. Watson, president of AdvanFort, the ship carried AdvanFort PCASP (Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel) team members aboard when it entered the Indian port, including British, Estonian, Ukrainian and Indian nationals.

“I’m told they’ve been accused of illicit bunkering and entering Indian waters without permission,” said Watson. “I haven’t seen the charges.”

Seaman Guard Ohio tied up

The Sierra Leone-flagged Seaman Guard Ohio is one of several ships operated by AdvanFort International, and was reportedly carrying 10 crew and 25 armed security personnel when escorted into port by the Indian Coast Guard. AdvanFort photo

“The master is currently in jail, and the ship is alongside the pier unattended with the engines running. Our crew is distraught and distressed. The chief engineer is devoted to his ship, and the Indians are looting everything. The chief engineer was observed tying himself up to the mast with a noose,” Watson said.

Watson said the ship was not attempting to do anything illegal.

“We were low on fuel and had been unable to refuel from our normal sources because of the typhoon. We had asked previously for permission to enter port but were told that India requires ships entering Indian ports to be classed by an IACS (International Association of Classification Societies) member, and our ship is not classed by an IACS member. Our ship was in port just weeks before, but without the security teams aboard, and it wasn’t a problem then,” he said.

“The Indian Coast Guard approached us and asked us to follow them into port,” Watson said.

“They know us there. We were in port less than a month ago. They know who we are and what we do. When we come into port we do not have weapons on board, and we weren’t intending to come into port this time,” said Watson. “Our agent arranged for an emergency transfer of some fuel at sea until we could reach another port where we could take on bunkers.”

 

International Waters

“We were in international waters, more than 12 miles from the coast line.  I’m told there are two little specks of land that India bases their territorial limit on. We couldn’t see those rocks on radar. Our radar doesn’t ping something that small.  The Indian Coast Guard says we were 10.48 miles from land, and therefore within their territorial waters,” Watson said. “We didn’t want to be there in the first place. But the Indian Coast Guard came out and directed our ship to come into port. Normally we would have removed the guards, weapons and ammunition when entering port, but we did not have that opportunity.”

AdvanFort personnel

AdvanFort PCASP (Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel) aboard a merchant ship. AdvanFort photo

Seaman Guard Ohio is owned by a Belize corporation, Seaman Guard, Inc., and leased by AdvanFort. The sole purpose of the ship is to be a floating accommodation to house the company’s guards at sea between transits. These are third country mariners aboard.

“We routinely position our vessels in shipping lanes,” said Watson. “We embark our security teams on westbound vessels headed into the high risk areas, and we recover our teams coming through on eastbound transits. Our crews transfer by means of a Zodiac.”

“The ship is not a “floating armory,” Watson emphasized.

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...