US vessel MV Seaman Guard Ohio carrying arms and ammunition was intercepted 10.48 nautical miles from the nearest coastline and 15 nautical miles away from Thoothukudi, which is well within the Indian territorial waters (12 nautical miles from coast), said a top police official.
Earlier in the day, Deputy National Security Advisor Nehchal Sandhu opined that the ship can evade the action if it was established it was intercepted beyond the territorial waters. The top police official said that the ship was intercepted well within the territorial waters and in the historical waters. “We have legitimate jurisdiction to take action for the violation,” the official added.
“The violations here include, entering territorial waters without due authorisation for carrying weapons from the country of origin, in this case Sierra Leone, under whose flag the ship sails, and purchasing 1,500 litres of diesel illegally with the help of a local shipping agent,” the official noted.
Asked whether the crew and guards will be arrested for the violation, the official maintained that after due investigation the arrests would be made. Prima-facie evidence had been made out following which the FIR had been registered. “There are some procedures involved before the arrest since nationals from Britain, Estonia and Ukraine are part of the guards and crew. After due investigation, the arrests will be made,” the official said.
The official added that they were also assessing the Voyage Data Recorder and other equipment on board to strengthen the case. He denied that there was any diplomatic pressure or any communication from the AdvanFort, a US Maritime Security company.
Meanwhile, in a statement, AdvanFort president William H Watson claimed that uniforms, protective equipment, medical kits, rifles and ammunition aboard the vessel are properly registered and licensed to AdvanFort. “As is routine in such matters, Indian authorities are auditing the vessel’s records during the port stay while supplies, provisions and fuel are being transferred to Ohio,” the statement claimed.