AdvanFort makes fresh appeal to Tamil Nadu authorities to release its 35 detained crew, guards

U.S.-based AdvanFort — the crew on board its ship MV Seaman Guard Ohio was recently arrested by the Tamil Nadu police for trespassing — has announced that it was avoiding the “high-crime” Sri Lankan waters in a bid to protect clients, crew and cargo.

It had taken heed of United States Department of State’s “Threats to Safety and Security” advisory which warned about the increasing and “ongoing criminal activity around the country, including murder and kidnapping” in Sri Lanka, said the company in a statement posted on its website.

The company was now using a location in the Western Malacca Straits as the point of disembarkation for its private contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) in east-bound transits and as an embarkation point for west-bound transits.

Headquartered in Washington D.C., AdvanFort provides comprehensive maritime security solutions for the commercial shipping industry and employs former U.S., U.K. and Nato Special Forces operatives as security guards.

Although there have been recent reports of piracy — two tankers were hijacked this month — in the Malacca Straits, AdvanFort’s statement reiterated that the new transit point was chosen specifically to prevent client vessels from having to slow down or stop in waters off Sri Lanka.

“Due to this concern, AdvanFort is providing its protective teams free of charge from the western border of the High Risk Area to the western end of the Malacca Straits,” said AdvanFort president William H. Watson.

Mr. Watson made a fresh appeal to Indian authorities for the release of the 35 guards/crew of MV Seaman Guard Ohio, who are arrested and lodged in the Puzhal central prison here. Those jailed — under reportedly inhumane conditions — include the vessel’s master and chief engineer, who has since suffered a nervous breakdown.

The U.S. vessel was intercepted and detained by the Indian Coast Guard off the Tuticorin Coast on October 11, 2013. The crew/guards, including Estonian, British and Ukranian nationals, were arrested by the ‘Q’ branch CID of the Tamil Nadu police under the provisions of the Arms Act, Essential Commodities Act and others.

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