The Coastal Security Group of the Tamil Nadu police on Sunday night registered a case against 35 persons, including several foreign nationals, who were on board M.V. Seaman Guard Ohio that was detained.
Based on a report of the Coast Guard, the Marine Police booked the crew and guards of the vessel under the provisions of the Arms Act 1956, Essential Commodities Act 1955 and Motor Spirit and High Speed Diesel (Regulation of Supply, Distribution and Prevention of Malpractices), Order 2005, police sources said.
While asking the Central Industrial Security Force to take custody of the vessel, the police told the officials of V.O. Chidambaranar Port in Tuticorin, where the vessel has been detained, to restrict its movement.
A request was made to the Customs Superintendent to seize the weapons/ammunition and investigate. Since the U.S., the U.K., Estonian and Ukranian nationals were among the accused, steps were taken to inform the respective embassies, the sources said.
The Coast Guard had intercepted the Sierra Leone flagged-vessel and escorted it to the port on Saturday.
Besides sophisticated weapons, the guards were also in possession of 5,724 rounds of ammunition.
“Prima facie, it appears that they ran out of fuel and bought 10 barrels of diesel with the help of some agents. Their company – AdvanFort – based in the U.S. has not provided any documents authorising their presence in the Indian waters,” an investigator told The Hindu.
No decision was taken to arrest any of the suspects yet though all the 45 of them were named in the FIR. When contacted, Tuticorin Superintendent of Police M. Durai said the crew had valid documents to hold weapons, but the investigating agencies were ascertaining whether the vessel could be legally allowed to sail into the Indian waters.
Though The Hindu tried to get an official version from AdvanFort’s Washington DC office, the officials at the emergency and operational centre only took contact details of one of the two correspondents and promised to get back. However, they did not.
‘Seaman Guard Ohio’ is part of the counter-piracy fleet of AdvanFort.
Centre seeks report
The Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday sought a detailed report from the Tamil Nadu government on the detention of the American ship. It has asked the State police to thoroughly probe the entire issue.