Human Rights at Sea MV Seaman Guard Ohio Case Study released

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“Our families face financial ruin. Men have lost wives, houses have been repossessed, family members have died and one of the men is due to become a father in the next few days. This existence cannot be sustained indefinitely. Politicians on both sides should resolve their differences. It is unfortunate that normal people should suffer in this manner”.

MV Seaman Guard Ohio crew member, 8 February 2015

The Facts

The vessel concerned was, at that time, the Sierra-Leone flagged MV Seaman Guard Ohio (“the vessel”) which was owned by AdvanFort (“the company”), a US-based firm that provided private maritime security services[1] and was then a member of the international Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI)[2]. The vessel was involved in supporting anti-piracy operations by providing armed escort services to commercial vessels travelling in what was then widely described as pirate-infested waters in the Indian Ocean.

On 12 October 2013 the vessel was intercepted by the Indian Coastguard off the Tuticorin coast. Mr. Paul Towers asserted that the vessel was actually 12.8 Nautical Miles (NM) from shore, but that the authorities had concluded they were in fact 10.8NM from shore and within Indian Territorial Waters (TTWs). It is further asserted by the crew that this calculation by the Indian authorities was undertaken by using two small islands as the base line for their measurements. “This [in relation to the Indian authorities calculations] put us inside by 1.2 NM” stated Mr. Towers.

The crew were arrested and detained by the Indian Coastguard near Tuticorin Port on suspicion of possession of arms, without a proper license. The crew consisted of 35 individuals, comprising 10 vessel crew and 25 armed guards (“the crew”). They included Indians, Britons, Ukrainians and Estonians. Amongst the crew, the following British nationals were onboard: Mr. Paul Towers, Mr. William Irving, Mr. Nicholas Simpson, Mr. Raymond Tindall, Mr. Nick Dunn and Mr. John Armstrong. Mr. Towers was separated and taken for interrogation by the authorities.
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[1] “Operator Support Vessel that provides an accommodations platform for AdvanFort’s counter-piracy guards between transits on client commercial vessels transiting the High Risk Area” http://www.advanfort.com/PressRelease101413.pdf

[2] http://www.seasecurity.org

READ MORE HERE

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