Saturday, October 19, 2013

India: Authorities Charge 33 People Aboard Armed Vessel Operated by US-Based AdvanFort

According to Reuters, Indian authorities have charged 33 persons aboard a US-registered armed vessel operated by Virginia-based security firm, AdvanFort, for failing to produce documentation authorizing the vessel to transport firearms in Indian waters.

The captain and chief engineer of the vessel were not among those arrested on Friday (October 19). The arrests were made in the southern city of Chennai.

Those arrested have been charged with illegal procurement of diesel and possession of firearms and ammunition without the necessary Indian government documentation.

Interestingly, the AdvanFort-owned, Seaman Guard Ohio,  is a Sierra Leone-flagged vessel.

India detained the Seaman Guard Ohio last week; it is being held in the port of Tuticorin along with its crew and armed security guards, which included British, Estonian, Indian and Ukrainian nationals.

COMMENT: The southern tip of India is close to major trading routes from Asia to Europe. Many cargo ships now travel with armed guards to deter pirates. Sri Lanka, close to Tuticorin, is a popular boarding point for armed guards.

A diplomatic row erupted last year when two Indian fishermen were allegedly shot dead by two Italian Marines serving as security guards on an Italian-flagged oil tanker off the Kerala coast. The Marines are currently being prosecuted in India.

The incident highlighted the poorly-regulated practice of placing private and military armed guards on commercial ships for protection against pirate attacks.

Pirate attacks cost billions of dollars every year - as much as $5.7-6.1 billion in 2012, according to the Oceans Beyond Piracy advocacy group.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.