OCTOBER 23, 2013 — U.S.-based maritime security firm AdvanFort is stepping up efforts to free the 35 crew and guards aboard the Seaman Guard Ohio who have been detained in an Indian prison since last Saturday (see earlier story).
Lawyers for AdvanFort in New Delhi are pressing to have the court there immediately release the Seaman Guard Ohio team which, Advanfort president William H. Watson says, includes decorated military veterans.
"They're brave, honest men who spend months away from their families to protect ships from pirates and this is how they’re being treated," he said.
Advanfort uses the vessel as an accommodation platform for counter-piracy guards between transits on client commercial vessels transiting the High Risk Area in the Indian Ocean.
The ship was intercepted by the Indian Coast Guard on October 12 in international waters. The crew members and guards are being held on charges that apparently include failing to provide adequate documentation for the weapons held on board. This is despite the fact that, as recently as Sepember 9, when the vessel was in the Indian port of Tuticorin, the Indian Coast Guard issued a boarding clearance certificate stating that the vessel was in full compliance with the Maritime Zones of India Act, 1981. At that time, the guards had aboard their uniforms, protective equipment, medical kits, rifles and ammunition.
Among those being held in Palayamkottai central prison is the vessel's master, Captain Dudnik Valentyn. On New Year's Day, 2011, Somali pirates boarded his then vessel, the MV Bilda and he and his crew spent 11 months in captivity before being freed on payment of a $2.6 million ransom of the $8 million was originally demanded.
Advanfort says that outrage over the Indian authorities' action is beginning to grow around the world.
"In recent days, says the company, "hundreds of people—some fellow seafarers, many others completely unrelated to the maritime industry but moved by the plight of MV OHIO’s multinational professionals—have signed a petition to the Indian government demanding the immediate release of the crew members, who include Indian, British, Estonian and Ukrainian nationals, among others."
You can access that petition HERE