Indian court quashes charges against crew of Seaman Guard Ohio

Eight months after they were arrested the charges against crew of AdvanFort’s Seaman Guard Ohio accused of illegally possessing weapons in Indian waters have been quashed by the High Court in Chennai, however, a charge of illegal bunkering against the vessel’s captain remains.

The Seaman Guard Ohio and its crew of 35 seafarers and security contractors were arrested on 13 October last year. In April 33 of the 35 crew were bailed, but not allowed to leave India. The captain and tactical deployment office remained in jail.

US maritime private security provider Advanfort maintained from the outset that the crew had done nothing wrong. The company contended, “that the ship was arrested while it was outside the Indian territorial sea and that the ship only aimed to refuel after the strong cyclone Phailin caused the vessel to be nearly out of fuel, also proving that all the firearms on board were legally purchased and properly documented”.

On Friday the High Court in Chennai dismissed the charges relating to illegal weapons against the 35 crew and their employer Advanfort.

The Ukrainian master of the vessel continues to face charges of illegal bunkering, but can now be bailed, according to AdvanFort.

“This has been a long waited for decision and we’d like to thank everyone who had continuous faith in us, offered support and helped us get through this challenge”, said AdvanFort ceo Sam Farajallah.

Charity The Missions to Seafarers, which supported the crew throughout their arrest, welcomed the court decision.

“Since their imprisonment in October, we have worked with the arrested seafarers, their families and the [UK] Foreign & Commonwealth Office to ensure that the crew received the care and support they needed through prison visiting, public awareness campaigns and family liaison work,” said the Mission’s director of justice and public affairs, Ken Peters.