[Maritime Security News: Please note that this headline is from the newspaper and not mine. I’m not sure “enjoy” is the word I would use.]
CHENNAI: For the 33 crew members of US ship M V Seaman Guard Ohio, arrested off Tuticorin in October last year for carrying weapons without permission in Indian waters, it has been a captive holiday in the city. Since March, when they were released on bail the crew, including British, Estonian, Ukrainian and a few Indians, have been ‘living it up’ at a Mylapore hotel – working out in the gym, sightseeing. Having run up a bill of Rs 8.10 lakh, they cannot leave until their company, US-based AdvanFort, coughs up the cash.
A couple of sailors, who didn’t wish to be named, told TOI they were “stuck in this country for no fault of ours”. For the crew members, put up in 11 rooms at Hotel Shelter, the day begins with breakfast – both continental and south Indian. “They prefer south Indian food to continental fare on most occasions,” said M Thavarajah, assistant front office manager at the hotel. After breakfast, they proceed to the Mylapore police station to sign in the register as mandated and return to their rooms to watch TV or read papers. Lunch and a long siesta follow before some head to the gym and others into the town. Later, they again sign in the police register before an early dinner and bed.
The hotel bills were yet to be cleared but the crew were taken care of well, said Thavarajah “AdvanFort was supposed to clear the bills on Thursday but hasn’t. We are apprehensive as the case is coming up for hearing in the Madurai bench of the Madras high court on June 24. What if they are allowed to leave the country?” The ship’s captain and another crew member remain in judicial custody.
Meanwhile, in a press statement released in the US recently, AdvanFort blamed the ship’s insurers for the plight of the crew. “More than seven months after Seaman Guard Ohio sailors were detained in India, the crew are now getting the cold shoulder treatment from insurers Aon, Lodestar and Travelers as they stonewall the claims of the men who used to serve their country as soldiers. AdvanFort has a comprehensive insurance package worth more than $700,000 in premiums for the 35 men for the last 2 years,” Acting President Al Farajallah said.
“We hope the insurers can provide the support we need for the sake of the sailors who need food, shelter and medical help so that they can be back in the arms of their loved ones.”
Maritime Security News Note:
Ah, where to start with this one.
Why hasn’t AdvanFort just paid the bill?
In other news, it was reported today that the Madurai bench of the Madras high court had: “…reserved its orders on a petition filed by 35 crew members of the US anti-piracy ship ‘Seaman Guard Ohio’ seeking to quash an FIR filed by Tamil Nadu Q Branch Police charging them with entering Indian waters illegally last year.
“Justice P N Prakash reserved the orders without mentioning any date on conclusion of arguments which touched various aspects including the jurisdictional power of the Q Branch police to file such a case against the crew members.”
This presumably means that the ongoing saga will now continue to an undetermined date and all the while, the crew stuck in their hotel will be running up those bills. At the same time, Paul Towers and Captain Valentine are still stuck behind bars. Incredible.