Deputy National Security Adviser Nehchal Sandhu on Tuesday said he did not think that the American ship, detained by National Coast Guard off Tamil Nadu coast for carrying arms, was involved in gunrunning.
Indian authorities have commenced thorough investigation into illegal weapons found onboard a ship operated by an US maritime security company, which was detained off the Tuticorin port in Tamil Nadu. (ANI photo)
"The captain of the ship did not declare the arms to customs... Now, the process of law will begin," he told reporters on the sidelines of a function. The police would have to find out if it carried valid documents for weapons, he said.
Asked if the vessel, MV Seaman Guard Ohio, might be involved in gun-running, Sandhu said "I don't think so," adding that it is likely to be owned by a private maritime security company. Some media reports have said a USA-based anti-piracy company owns it.
Sandhu said local police would take a decision on the ship and its fate after investigation.
The ship, whose crew included eight Indians, was intercepted and detained by the Indian Coast Guard about 15 nautical miles east of Tuticorin on October 12.
Security forces seized 31 assault rifles and around 5,000 rounds of ammunition from the MV Seaman Ohio.
An FIR has been registered against 10 crew members and 25 guards of the detained ship by the Tamil Nadu Marine Police for illegally carrying arms and ammunition.
A case under the Essential Commodities Act, too, has been registered after the crew bought 1,500 litres of diesel illegally with the help of a local shipping agent.
Coast guard official Santosh Kumar Singh said the ship is owned by a Virginia-based security company, AdvanFort, but is registered in Sierra Leone.
Tuticorin district collector M Ravi Kumar on Monday made a spot assessment of the ship. "A report has already been sent to the government by the police and on Tuesday, I have a meeting with the superintendent of police on this issue," he said.
The police said the ship's captain told investigators that AdvanFort provides armed escorts to merchant vessels travelling in pirate-infested waters in the Indian Ocean. AdvanFort could not immediately be reached for comment.
Singh said the ship's crew told the coast guard that documents for the weapons were with the company. The police said they filed the complaint after the crew failed to produce the documents over two days.
India is very sensitive about the presence of armed security guards on merchant ships after the shooting deaths of two fishermen by armed Italian marines last year.
The marines were part of a military security team on a cargo ship when they fired at the fishermen, mistaking them for pirates. The two Italians are facing trial in India for the deaths.
Video: India probes mysterious arms-laden US ship detained in Tamil Nadu