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Seaman Guard probe reveals shocking facts.

THE interrogation of the crew of Sierra Lone- flagged ship MV Seaman Guard Ohio has brought out shocking facts about the vulnerability of India's maritime security apparatus.

Among the first conclusions is the aspect of the ship's location at the time of being cornered by Coast Guard ship ' Naiki Devi'. The ship was well within India's territorial waters as well as historical waters, which essentially imply that all the laws of the land apply to the ship. This is unlike the case of the Italian marines who killed two Indian fishermen in international waters.

Various agencies, including the Coast Guard and the Intelligence Bureau, have interrogated the ship's crew. A report was subsequently submitted to the Ministries of Defence and External Affairs.

" It strengthens our case and amplifies their offence," a source said. The next issue that emerges is the possibility of the ship's involvement in illegal arms transfer.

Investigators were shocked to discover that despite being a floating armoury platform, no log book was kept to account for the number of guns, guards and ammunition rounds used and handed out.

" None among the 21 armed guards of foreign origin had Indian visa stamped on their passports and they did not have permission to carry arms either from their flag state or any Indian authority. Needless to say they did not bother disclosing their arms and ammunition onboard," an officer disclosed.

Subsequently, instead of hiring an authorised agent in Tuticorin, the crew chose to illegally restock 1.5 kilotonne of fuel from a local boat. It was also learnt that the ship, at least twice in last couple of months, had issues with engines and went adrift. Back then, the same Coast Guard ship had assisted MV Seaman Guard Ohio.

Not surprisingly, the Tamil Nadu Police has booked the ship and its crew under various charges including the Arms Act and the Passport Act.

What has rattled the security agencies most is that the same modus operandi could be used by terrorists to sneak into the country. " We are not concerned about what the crew use as justification.

Their wanton abuse of the law is evident. And it is fair that they face the music as that will send a strong message," the officer said.

Report was submitted to the ministries of defence and external affairs

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Oct 18, 2013
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