Dudnik Valentyn, the Captain of U.S. vessel MV Seaman Guard Ohio, has been taken captive twice: first time by pirates and the second time by law enforcement personnel. On January 1, 2011, Mr. Valentyn, then the Captain of MV Blida, and his crew were detained by Somali pirates for 11 months and released after a huge ransom was paid. Now, the Ukrainian national is in judicial custody after the US vessel was detained by coastal security agencies on charges of illegally entering Indian territorial waters with heavily armed guards on board and also procuring 1,500 litres of diesel through an agent.
In a statement, AdvantFort President and Chief Operating Officer William H. Watson said as millions of Americans prepared to see Tom Hank’s ‘Captain Philips’, a real-life victim of Somali piracy, now the Captain of US counter-piracy vessel had watched nervously as international weather forecasts suggested dangerous swells even as his ship ran low on fuel.
Mr. Valentyn had faced such uncertainty before. On New Year’s Day, 2011, Somali pirates boarded his vessel MV Blida, an Algerian flagged ship. He and his crew spent 11 months in anguish-causing captivity before being freed upon payment of a ransom.
Mr. Watson went on to say that the worries of the severely traumatized captain and the crew of MV Blida did not end with their release. Their vessel developed mechanical problems and lost contact while sailing some 55 nautical miles north of Mombassa and started drifting towards Malinda where pirates still lurked. That tale as told by others, he said, appeared to be critical to understanding the current situation involving the MV Seaman Guard Ohio.
The vessel was well-known to the Indian port authorities as it had called on their ports many times in the past. Unfortunately for Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSCs), as ‘The Hindu’ pointed out, the incident involving MV Seaman Guard Ohio “has exposed a ‘nebulous area’ in the legality of the rapidly growing practice,” Mr. Watson said.
Meanwhile, sources in the Tamil Nadu prison department said the crew and guards presently lodged in Palayamkottai Central Prison were provided with a special diet. “Since they don’t eat Indian food, we give them bread, eggs etc.,” a prison official said.