Fuel was arranged by a reputable broker, says AdvanFort chief

President and Chief Operating Officer of AdvanFort International Inc., Captain William H. Watson, has claimed that Seaman Guard Ohio, the anti-piracy vessel that was detained by coastal security agencies, did not enter Indian territorial waters until instructed to do so by the Indian Coast Guard (ICG).

In an e-mail interview to The Hindu on Friday, Capt. Watson said the vessel did move close to the coast for refuelling, “but the instruments and records on the ship indicate that it never came closer than 12 nautical miles from the Indian coastline.”

The ship did not run out of fuel but had less than one tonne of diesel. Refuelling was arranged by a port agent who, the company believed, was a reputable broker. “AdvanFort’s policy is to purchase fuel from reputable sources. It occasionally happens in the maritime industry that one vessel may buy or borrow a small amount of fuel from another vessel until the full refuelling can be accomplished.”

Capt. Watson said he had not stated that the licences for the arms were issued in the U.S. The firearms were purchased primarily from the United Kingdom with export permits properly registered and End User Certificates in place for all the weapons.

While the cyclone had not directly affected the coastline, (apparently referring to Tamil Nadu), it did have an impact on the weather and the state of the sea offshore. “The captain informs us that he never entered the Indian territorial waters, until instructed to do so by the Indian Coast Guard,” he said, and added that AdvanFort was one of nearly 200 Private Maritime Security Companies that provided counter-piracy protection for vessels transiting the High Risk Area.

Clearance certificate

AdvanFort has claimed that the Coast Guard had given Seaman Guard Ohio a clearance certificate stating that there was no violation under the Maritime Zone of India Act.

In a statement released on its website, the company said the ICG had on September 9 this year issued the clearance certificate when the vessel was berthed in the Tuticorin Port. In the certificate, a Coast Guard Assistant Commandant has stated that his inspection of the vessel “did not reveal any violation” under the Maritime Zone of India (Regulation of Fishing by Foreign Vessels) Act, 1981.

However, when contacted, a senior official of the Coast Guard said the certificate was issued on September 9, 2013, when nothing objectionable, including arms and ammunition, was found on board the vessel.

Seaman Guard Ohio was intercepted more than a month later based on specific information that armed guards were on board. Hence a Coast Guard Ship was deployed to intercept and detain the vessel, he said.

More In: Tamil Nadu | National | News