India reportedly does not suspect "the intentions" of US-owned ship MV Seaman Guard Ohio, which was supporting anti-piracy operations, but was critical of the fact that the vessel did not follow procedure of declaring arms while entering the Indian waters.
A top government official in Delhi said that the ship was supporting anti-piracy operations and not suspected to supply arms to any terror or extremist group in India, according to an Economic Times report. However, the ship would not be let off unless it makes proper declarations on entering the Indian waters, the official added.
On 11 October, the Indian Coast Guard detained the US owned but Sierra Leone-flagged fishery patrol boat after the vessel entered Indian waters close to the International Maritime Boundary Line in the Indian Ocean without obtaining a Pre-Arrival Notification for Security (PANS) for the 6 British, 14 Estonian, 4 Indian and 1 Ukrainian armed guards and the military weapons on board the vessel.
The Seaman Guard Ohio was intercepted and escorted to the Thoothukudi Port by ICGS Naiki Devi after fishermen contacted coastal authorities about a ship carrying armed guards.
In the absence of required documentation for the arms, ammunition and guards on board the vessel, the 10 crew and 25 guards were interrogated by a central multi-agency joint investigation team comprising of the Indian Coast Guard, the Indian Navy, Customs and the Q Branch of the Intelligence Bureau.
Indian authorities have confiscated sophisticated semi-automatic weapons along with around 5,700 rounds of ammunition till all the paperwork relating to authorisations for the weaponry to enter Indian waters received from AdvanFort is examined.
AdvanFort attempted to placate Indian officials by claiming that the vessel entered Indian waters to avoid the effects of Cyclone Phailin which made land-fall at Gopalpur, Odisha over 1,000 km from Thoothukudi. ''I want to personally thank the Indian government for offering a safe harbor during this typhoon to the crew of our good vessel OHIO,'' said William H Watson, president of AdvanFort.
According to the ET report, the official today said, "If the vessel had the intentions to supply arms it would not have entered the Indian waters." However, the government wants to fulfil the entire procedure before giving any clearance to the ship. The centre is awaiting a detailed report from the investigators.
Official sources described the vessel as a floating armory, which supported anti-piracy operations in the maritime region of the Gulf of Hormuz and the Malacca Straits.
The website of AdvanFort claims that it provides comprehensive maritime security solutions for the global commercial shipping industry. The security teams comprise former US, UK and NATO Special Forces operators.