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HindustanTimes Thu,02 Oct 2014

Indian action to arrest crew inappropriate: AdvanFort

PTI  Washington, October 21, 2013
First Published: 00:58 IST(21/10/2013) | Last Updated: 11:13 IST(21/10/2013)

A US-based firm that owns the ship that has been detained off the coast of Tamil Nadu on Sunday termed the action as "inappropriate" and said it is working diplomatically and through the judicial system to prove the innocence of 35 detained crew members and get them released.

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"Our vessel Seaman Guard OHIO has been detained in Tuticorin and 35 of our crew and guards are being held. We believe the entire issue is inappropriate, because we were asked to come into Indian territorial waters by the Indian Coast Guard, while we were outside the Indian territorial waters where we were operating, William H Watson, president of AdvanFort, told PTI.

Washington-based AdvanFort International is the firm that owns the ship -- Seaman Guard Ohio -- which has been detained by authorities off the coast of Tamil Nadu for carrying heavy weapons and ammunition on board without clearance.

"So we are taking counsel. We are working diplomatically and through the judicial system to get these people released," Watson said.

"It (actions by Indian authorities) is inappropriate. The entire mission of our vessel is to safeguard commercial ship from piracy," he said adding that many of these people are themselves Indians.

"That's what we do. We protect the Indian seafarers," he noted.

AdvanFort, he said, would represent its case before the Indian court on Monday.

"We would proclaim their innocence and try and arrange bail for them so that we can get them out pending the resolution of the inquiry. We are working both within the judicial system and the diplomatic channels to resolve this matter," he said in response to a question.

The company, Watson said, has taken up the matter with the governments of the US, Britain, Estonia and Ukraine.

"Normally when we intend to call Indian port, we off load our guard and any arms that we have, before we enter the Indian Territory.

"In this particular case, we were asked to come into the port. So that's why the arms and guards were still on board," he said, adding that the Indian authorities have issued them certificates which says that they are pleased and satisfied by the documentation they have found concerning the weapons and ammunition onboard, as well as that having to do with personal protection equipment.

"I am very surprised with the actions of the Indian Coast Guard, Navy and Government, because it does not make any sense to me. Everyone on board the vessel is a decorated military veteran, who are serving now as a counter piracy guard. They are all closely vetted. They go through intensive background checks. These are not criminals. These are brave man," Watson said.


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