Coastline can be breached
Coastline needs to be secured much more than what it is now as they are concerned about non-state actors making entry into India land weapons and terrorists, as evidenced by the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008. This view gets accentuated further after India apprehended the 390-tonne privately owned US vessel, Seaman Guard Ohio off Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, on October 12 for illegally entering Indian waters with a cache of 31 assault rifles and ammunition.
The MV Seaman Guard Ohio was intercepted 10 nautical miles off Tuticorin after two alerts from intelligence agencies. The Tamil Nadu police’s intelligence branch, the ‘Q’ branch, flashed the first alert on the night of October 11 to the Ministries of Defence and Home.
The single-page communication warned that a vessel had been spotted anchored off Tuticorin and it was including “suspected illegal activities including armed transport”. This was followed by a similarly-worded alert from the Special Branch, the state unit of the R&AW, that day. A Coast Guard patrol vessel was launched within four hours of the alert and the vessel was nabbed. AdvanFort, the US firm which owns the vessel, has said that it was not engaged in any illegal activities. In a recent petition sent to the Government of India, the firm requested the release of its personnel. The vessel had embarked 25 armed guards on board merchant vessels who provided armed security to merchant vessels from Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.
Four former Indian armed forces service personnel were onboard the vessel: Harjeet Singh, a former Indian Navy sailor and three army veterans S. Sudhir, U. Chelliapan and K.V. Prakash. They were part of the complement of 25 guards onboard the vessel, six British nationals, 14 Estonians, and 1 Ukranian. None of them had valid passports or visas. A total of 35 weapons were recovered from the vessel, these included 31 5.56mm rifles, three 7.62mm rifles and one 9mm pistol. Coast Guard authorities say no proper logs or inventories of the weapons were maintained.
Besides violations of the Arms Act for which the 35-member crew is now in prison, Coast Guard officials say the vessel and its owners also violated a September 2011 notification from the Director General of Shipping asking all vessels to declare whether they were carrying armed guards on board. The vessel also did not hire a ship’s agent in Tuticorin and instead purchased fuel from fisherfolk out at sea. It also did not have any authorisation for its anti-piracy operations from its flag state, Sierra Leone.