The U.S. vessel with heavily armed guards on board that was detained by coastal security agencies at the Tuticorin Port in Tamil Nadu on Friday had entered Indian waters intentionally. Though its Master (Captain) was aware that the vessel was approaching the territorial waters of a foreign country, he failed to communicate to the port authorities, Inspector-General and Commander Coast-Guard (Region East) Satya Prakash Sharma said on Wednesday.
‘Seaman Guard Ohio’, the Sierra Leone-flagged vessel of AdvanFort, a U.S.-based company that provides counter-piracy services at sea, was intercepted by the Indian Coast Guard off the Tuticorin coast and detained at the VOC Chidambaranar Port.
Asked whether the vessel had strayed into Indian waters after it ran out of fuel and to escape the fury of ‘Phailin’ cyclone, Com. Sharma said going by the established international maritime practices, the Master should have informed the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) about the exigency.
“One of their intentions was to procure fuel. Transfer of fuel, suspected to be subsidised diesel in this case, within the Customs Waters (24 nautical miles) can amount to smuggling…the question of escaping from Phailin does not arise as the cyclone had no impact in that area.
“The crew had full knowledge that the vessel was entering Indian territory,” he told The Hindu on Wednesday.
The vessel had entered Indian waters on an earlier occasion when a fishing net got entangled in its propeller.
Then the vessel neither had arms or guards on board, Com. Sharma said, adding that the Coast Guard was also conducting an internal enquiry into the circumstances under which the vessel made its way to India and the reasons thereof.
‘Q’ Branch inspects vessel
Meanwhile, police sources said the ‘Q’ Branch CID that took over investigation in the case inspected the vessel on Wednesday. Investigators would peruse navigational equipment such as GPS and radar to verify the location and course of the vessel in recent weeks.
A case under the provisions of the Arms Act and the Essential Commodities Act among others has been booked against the crew and guards of the ship.