British officials meet arrested crew members of U.S. ship in southern India

102213-usSTORY: British Deputy High Commission officials met crewmembers of a detained US ship in a southern India prison on Monday (October 21).

Indian marine authorities impounded the vessel, M V Seaman Guard Ohio, on October 12 for illegally entering territorial waters and carrying ‘illegal weapons’ off Tuticorin port.

Last week, 35 crew members on board, including some UK nationals, were arrested and are currently under judicial custody in Tirunelveli jail.

The Sierra Leone-flagged ship Seaman Guard Ohio belongs to Virginia-based AdvanFort, a maritime security firm that specialises in anti-piracy operations.

AdvanFort and the U.S. Consulate in Chennai were not available for comment on the latest developments.

Indian authorities had been assured they would receive documents within an hour of the detention, but even after 24 hours the ship’s master had still not produced them.

In February last year, 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 loosely regulated practice of placing private and military armed guards on ships for protection against pirate attacks.

According to an anti-pirate advocacy group named The Oceans Beyond Piracy, pirate attacks cost billions of dollars every year – as much as $5.7-6.1 billion in 2012.