The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) will pay for legal support for the court appeal of the recently sentenced anti-piracy ship Seaman Guard Ohio’s crew members.
“We have now completed a full legal analysis of the court’s judgment and we firmly believe there are grounds for appeal. We will match our determination with funds,” ITF seafarers’ section chair Dave Heindel said.
“This is a clear case of criminalisation of the vessel’s crew. They have been sentenced for supposedly being in charge of weapons that they would never have handled,”
Namely, the 35 crew members of US security company AdvanFort, including British, Estonian and Ukrainian nationals, were arrested by Indian Coast Guard off the coast of Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu in October 2013. They were charged for failing to present proper documentation necessary to carry weapons in Indian waters, and an Indian court recently sentenced them to five years of prison.
“The real scandal is that the company responsible, AdvanFort, has been able to play fast and loose with rules, regulations, vessel registration and insurance, thereby dropping the ship’s crew and the armed guards into this mess. Having done so they have abandoned their employees and washed their hands of them. Given its behaviour throughout this affair, AdvanFort does not deserve to continue to exist in business,” Heindel said.
AdvanFort claimed that the ship was arrested while it was outside the Indian territorial waters. The company also proved that all the firearms on board were legally purchased and properly documented.
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