Security agencies question crew of US ship

Chennai, Oct 14 : Officials from different security departments are questioning at the Tuticorin port the 35-member team (crew and security guards) of the detained ship Seaman Guard Ohio, which flew a Sierra Leone flag, police said.

"Officials from various departments involved in security are questioning the members of the Seaman Guard ship. A clear picture has not yet emerged. The ship officials have been giving contradictory versions. The papers presented by them do not support their oral statements," a Tamil Nadu marine police official told IANS over phone from Tuticorin.

Tuticorin is around 600 km from here.

Sierra Leone is a West African country.

The official said no details are yet available about the vessel's port of call and why it entered Indian waters.

According to the official, a first information report (FIR) was lodged against the ship members, but charges will be known only once interrogation is completed.

Indian security agencies are looking at whether the ship was involved in arms trafficking.

Owned by US company AdvanFort, which specialises in maritime security against pirates, Seaman Guard Ohio was on Indian waters Friday night and detained by Indian Coast Guard early Saturday at Tuticorin Port.

According to the Coast Guard, the vessel was manned by a 10-member crew, of which eight are Indian and two Ukrainian.

The vessel also had 25 security guards, of which six are British, 14 Estonian, one Ukrainian and four Indian.

Soon after the ship's detention, the Coast Guard said the authorisation for carrying arms onboard is yet to be produced and verified.

According to a marine police official, the security guards on the ship were saying that the arms were for providing security to ships, and they were waiting for further orders.

The ship also bought around 1,500 litres of diesel without proper papers. A case was registered for that as well.

On Friday, about 10.30 p.m., the Coast Guard received information about the presence of a suspicious merchant vessel, MV Seaman Guard, carrying arms and guards, close to Tuticorin.

A Coast Guard ship was dispatched, and the foreign vessel was intercepted around 3.30 a.m. Saturday, 15 nautical miles east of Tuticorin.

The vessel was escorted to Tuticorin port.

Meanwhile an email sent by IANS to AdvanFort Saturday asking for the ship's last voyage details, last port of call and the reason for entering Indian waters without permission remains unacknowledged.

--IANS (Posted on 14-10-2013)

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