The crew of Advanfort’s Seaman Guard Ohio remain stranded in India without their passports, despite no longer having legal charges to answer.
With no support from Advanfort for over a year, the crew are relying on the help of charities and international agencies such as the Mission to Seafarers, Human Rights at Sea, and union Nautilus.
The 35 men, 25 privately contract armed security personnel (PCASP) and 10 seafarers, from the UK, Ukraine, Estonia and India, have been held in India since their vessel was intercepted in October 2013 for allegedly importing weapons without proper paperwork.
Speaking to Seatrade Global from Chennai, crew member John Armstrong stated that the situation was affecting the health of the crew and their families back home, “The men’s health is deteriorating lots due to stress, and a large number of the men’s families have suffered health problems due to the stress. Three of the men are from war-torn Ukraine but are unable to return and fend for their families as they are trapped here,” he said.
Of the 35 men aboard the Seaman Guard Ohio, only the master still faces charges, relating to allegations of illegal bunkering. The 34 other crew are currently unable to leave India, despite being exonerated of all charges by the High Court of Madras in July 2014.
Seven months later the men still have no access to their passports, seaman’s discharge books and other belongings from the ship.According to Armstrong, Advanfort has failed to pay the men’s salaries since November 2013. An accommodation bill for the crew’s hotel which reached $20,000 in value is unpaid, and the crew are facing legal threats relating to the unpaid amount.
“Advanfort has gave us no support since the start,” said Armstrong. “They did pay for a lawyer to clear their name and ours but we have not heard anything from them since 10 July 2014 when the charges were quashed. Advanfort is still operating.”
The crew are not permitted to leave India until the prosecution, the anti-terror police agency in the state of Tamil Nadu, Q Branch, submits a letter of no objection. While the prosecution lodged an appeal against the July quash order and a stay on that quash, the court only allowed an appeal to be heard, and so the crew should be free men.
When asked whether the group were kept up to date with legal proceedings from the Indian state, Armstrong replied, “We are not informed of any legal process. Only we get told that no hearing has been posted for us.”
Advanfort did not respond to attempts to contact them for comment.
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