Why the Seaman Guard Ohio is a worry for coastal security

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by AVERAGE INDIAN, Oct 26, 2013.



    Sep 22, 2012
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    Detroit MI
    Coast Guard officials fear non-state actors could use anti-piracy operations to land weapons and explosives on India's coastline.

    The 390-tonne privately owned US vessel, Seaman Guard Ohio was detained off Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu on October 12 for illegally entering Indian waters with a cache of 31 assault rifles and ammunition.

    "A non-state actor could hire a merchant vessel on the pretext of anti-piracy operations and use it to land arms, explosives and terrorist on the Indian coastline," a senior coast guard official said, calling for greater regulation of private security agencies involved in anti-piracy operations.

    The 10 Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists who killed 166 persons during the November 26, 2008 attacks on Mumbai landed on the Mumbai coast in a commandeered fishing vessel.

    The MV Seaman Guard Ohio was intercepted 10 nautical miles off Tuticorin after two alerts from intelligence agencies. The Tamil Nadu police's intelligence branch, the 'Q' branch flashed the first alert on the night of 11 October to the ministries of defence and home. The single page communication warned that a vessel had been spotted anchored off Tuticorin and it was including "suspected illegal activities including armed transport". This was followed by a similarly-worded alert from the Special Branch, the state unit of the R&AW, that day. A coast guard patrol vessel was launched within four hours of the alert and the vessel was nabbed. AdvanFort, the US firm which owns the vessel has said that it was not engaged in any illegal activities. In a recent petition sent to the government of India, the firm requested the release of its personnel. The vessel had embarked 25 armed guards on board merchant vessels who provided armed security to merchant vessels from Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.

    Four former Indian armed forces service personnel were onboard the vessel: Harjeet Singh, a former Indian navy sailor and three army veterans S Sudhir, U Chelliapan and KV Prakash. They were part of the complement of 25 guards onboard the vessel, six British nationals, 14 Estonians, and 1 Ukranian. None of them had valid passports or visas. A total of 35 weapons were recovered from the vessel, these included 31 5.56 mm rifles, three 7.62 mm rifles and one 9 mm pistol. Coast Guard authorities say no proper logs or inventories of the weapons were maintained.

    Besides violations of the Arms Act for which the 35-member crew is now in prison, Coast Guard officials say the vessel and its owners also violated a September 2011 notification from the Director General of Shipping asking all vessels to declare whether they were carrying armed guards on board. The vessel also did not hire a ship's agent in Tuticorin and instead purchased fuel from fisherfolk out at sea. It also did not have any authorisation for its anti piracy operations from its flag state, Sierra Leone.

    Read more at: Why the Seaman Guard Ohio is a worry for coastal security : North, News - India Today
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