The U.S. company operating a ship carrying heavily armed personnel, which was detained by authorities after straying into Indian waters on Friday, has thanked the Indian government for “offering a safe harbour” to the Seaman Guard Ohio vessel, even as the ship was apparently trying to “enter the port both to take on fuel and to escape the effects of Typhoon Phailin.” Although AdvanFort cited Phailin as one factor behind its entering Indian territory, the cyclone mainly struck the eastern coast of India, mainly in Odisha, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh.
In a statement, William Watson, president of AdvanFort, said, “I want to personally thank the Indian government for offering a safe harbour during this typhoon to the crew of our good vessel Ohio.”
He added that AdvanFort was looking forward to returning the vessel to its duties “as quickly as formalities and resupply operations are concluded,” and confirmed that the crew and guards were remaining aboard the ship during its port stay.
Media reports suggested that a multi-agency joint investigation team in Tuticorin had interrogated the armed guards and crew about whether they possessed authorisation for the weapons and ammunition on board and a probe as to whether the vessel was involved in arms trafficking would be undertaken by the coastal police.
Yet Mr. Watson did not directly allude to this in his remarks, only saying that the personnel on board, comprising British, Estonian, Ukranian and Indian nationals “are well and receiving fresh food and water, according to AdvanFort’s agents in the port.”
The Hindu earlier reported that the personnel on board possessed “sophisticated arms and ammunition, which included semi-automatic weapons and self-loading rifles”.
In this regard, Mr. Watson said that the ship was an Operator Support Vessel that provided an “accommodations platform for AdvanFort’s counter-piracy guards between transits on client commercial vessels transiting the High Risk Area.”
The company added that this implied that in addition to normal crew, the Ohio “had a number of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP) team members aboard when it entered the Indian port.”
Mr. Watson explained that the routine duties of PCASP included providing armed counter-piracy protection and to this end they also had aboard “their uniforms, protective equipment, medical kits, rifles and ammunition — all of which is properly registered and licensed to AdvanFort.”
The company said that as per routine operating procedure Indian authorities were “auditing the vessel’s records during the port stay while supplies, provisions and fuel are being transferred to Ohio.”