Seaman Guard Ohio, Chennai, India and the Law

Captain George Livingstone’s Editorial on the subject of the Seaman Guard Ohio refers

As any mariner knows, there is always another point of view, often more.

From here in India, as one who has been involved with this case, the view is thus - a ship flying the flag of Sierra Leone, with an ownership that appears to be as opaque as a thick fog behind a massive corporate and intelligence curtain involving multiple governments, crewed by mercenaries who have had past military experience, that is painted to look deceptively like a warship, has the profile of a man-of-war, is in the colours of man-of-war and most of all has already picked up a reputation with seafarers in the Arabian Sea for being some sort of a floating supermarket for arms and ammunition, is under legitimate arrest in an Indian port.

The fact that the Nationality of some of these mercenaries is British is neither here not there. India has been independent for 70 years now and has a very healthy legal system and if your vessel and you are in Indian waters then you are most certainly subject to Indian law. Any attempt to interfere with Indian law is not really appreciated but it is a free world so.

But look at it from another point of view - what would have been the reaction of the American Navy, American Coast Guard or simply the American people if a ship like the Seaman Guard Ohio was found hanging around near the American coast?

The location where the Seaman Guard Ohio was nabbed is nowhere near any piracy areas in the Arabian Sea. It is, however, very close to some issues pertaining to armed conflicts in Sri Lanka and the Maldives as well as impacting the security of India.

The relatives of the mercenaries onboard this ship should be glad that the mercenaries are not being tried for waging war on India.

If all they were doing was providing security for ships in transit the piracy zone, then they as per standard practice could have very well been on merchant ships not disguised to look like war ships from Sierra Leone if you please. And they most certainly would run their pick-ups and drops as well as bunkering and stores from closer to Colombo.

We still have memories of colonial fleets coming to what used to be peaceful waters and waging war against us not too long ago, and it is probably insensitive of the Editor to bring up such issues again - gunboat diplomacy is long gone and over.

Humbly submitted.

You’re right, it is neither here not there. No one is asking for special treatment because they’re British, it just makes the injustice more of a personal issue for other Brits.

As the vessel was in international waters and their firearms were, by all accounts I’ve read, legal, the ONLY law broken was illegal receipt of fuel. What justification can you possibly give for arresting the security personnel for illegal receipt of fuel?

This is a tip-off, “Healthy legal system”, that could only be a punch line to a bad joke. I’ve been to India, corruption runs very deep.

I wouldn’t believe a word of the OP.

Exactly, leave the legalities to the very competent Justice Delivery System of India, wherein issues like innocent passage as well as territorial waters and other aspects covered also under UNCLOS especially Part 2 are left to them as also Indian laws, I presume there is no objection to that.

My larger point is that if you know that the ship is flying a Sierra Leone flag, if you know that the owners are opaque and contrary to every best practice of shipowners, if you know the ship has been kitted out to look like a fake warship - then what were you doing out there on that ship anyways?

Where is the injustice in this? Especially if some of the mercenaries have been through and in India in the past also AND know the laws.

Hundreds and maybe thousands of British and other Nationalities transit India on their way to a variety of “security” duties in other countries nearby. You can spot them at favourite watering holes in and around Delhi waiting for documentation for man, machine and weapons, awaiting the proper flights to, say, Kabul or wherever. They do this with the full involvement of the States involved.

But they do not do it with mickey-mouse seaman documents from dodgy African countries heading for even more risky ships, and they certainly do not display those weapons in or around Indian territory, they do it with their own genuine documents. We are all in a real world here and know the score too.

My core question - what would you do if such a ship landed up outside SFO or Felixstowe remains unanswered.

That you are a Super Moderator here and choose to deflect a discussion on mercenaries by a random comment on corruption is symptomatic of all that is wrong in the way we perceive each other. I’ve been a seafarer and then done time as a ship-broker, and finance person, and media and thence made technology for cash-management which is a polite word for money laundering, and now help in forensics for hot money reaching the shipping industry, so would probably say that corruption runs deepest in, say, the City of London and its banking systems?

But I would rather quote the President of Nigeria when he was in a similar manner accused of corruption. Here, you can see it here -

Back to the topic, Dear Super Moderator, I hope you will agree?

Humbly submitted.

Again, as far as we know the only crime committed was illegal receipt of fuel. Therefore the Master and maybe the Chief Engineer are liable for arrest but NOT any of the other crew or security contractors.

I understand India didn’t like the ship being there but that doesn’t justify India breaking the law like this. They had no legal grounds to arrest it until the illegal fuel operation and they’re seriously abridging justice by imprisoning the security forces.

Study Finds India Is Asia’s Most Corrupt Country

Once again, Sir, your rights of innocent passage end if you are in my territorial waters under false premises and fake documents. UNCLOS Part 2 Section 12 on definition thereof wrt roadsteads read along with the complete Part 3 on Rights of Innocent Passage and conditions therein.

Just for the record, have you seen where Tutitcorin and Chennai are on navigational charts and try to answer why a ship claiming to be providing security in the Gulf of Aden was there?

Much more than just came for fuel.

Sure thing, the day Transparency International publishes its own accounts will be the day their studies and surveys make sense, till then I would rather believe this book and the networks on which countries are the most corrupt. Oh yes, they are just islands off the island, and so on and so forth.

As I mentioned before, I made technology for the laundries, Cap.

As far as I know they weren’t in Indian territorial waters. That’s why the illegal fuel sales were the only thing India had to arrest the ship on.

UNCLOS Part 2, Section 2, Article 12 refers. I wish you would stay to facts instead of “as far as I know” which is not a very healthy way to, for example, navigate a ship. “As far as I know the water looks smooth so maybe there is enough water under the keel” is not a good way to approach, say, the Humber River ports?

UNCLOS, Part 2, Article12


Roadsteads which are normally used for the loading, unloading and anchoring of ships, and which would otherwise be situated wholly or partly outside the outer limit of the territorial sea, are included in the territorial sea."

So you were saying, she was receiving bunkers at roadstead, right?

I have stayed to the facts, as far as I know. As in, every report I’ve read says they were in international waters and only the Indian government claims otherwise. Since I don’t personally KNOW where they were for a FACT (and neither do you) I have to go off the news reports. Thus, as far as I know, they were in international waters.

Do you have any proof of their location?

I never claimed that, nor have I heard that mentioned anywhere.

That you choose to go by hearsay and news reports and not by facts is not something I can do anything about. The facts of the case are open domain, the Justice System in India is online and in English too, and you can search for them online or ask any young lawyer to assist you.

I would help you BUT you go all aggressive against me, so you go look for the facts of the case yourself, or keep on relying on media reports.

Humbly submitted and have a good day.

Then provide some facts.

That’s also hearsay, I want actual FACTS.


If the Justice Delivery System in India is all hearsay according to you then suggest you stay away from India and issues pertaining to India. For the rest, you have access to a computer, search for Court records and decisions. Or find and use your own legal assistants.

I just don’t much care for your aggressive accusatory tone and approach so as I said before, all the best to you and yours.

That’s good advice and I intend to take it.

Imprisoning working mariners who are just trying to make a living is shameful. Shame on you for peddling this nonsense.

This argument is called the Gish Gallop -

The Gish Gallop should not be confused with the argumentum ad nauseam, in which the same point is repeated many times. In a Gish Gallop, many bullshit points are given all at once.

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This vessel was sitting at the Republic Marina in Singapore for a long time in 2011:

No visible name or home port marking:

The only flag APPEARS to be a Singapore “flag of courtesy”.

'[quote=“Kennebec_Captain, post:17, topic:46148”]
My core question - what would you do if such a ship landed up outside SFO or Felixstowe remains unanswered.

This argument is called the Gish Gallop -

The Gish Gallop should not be confused with the argumentum ad nauseam, in which the same point is repeated many times. In a Gish Gallop, many bullshit points are given all at once.

With a healthy dollop of “whataboutry” at the end.

Sounds like you are uniquely qualified to lift the fog surrounding the vessel ownership and lead an international manhunt for the alleged criminals who gave the orders to the captain and crew to refuel in Indian waters. And maybe if you brought them to trial you would discover for certain if the crew is innocent or guilty?

But holding the crew members in jail because the ownership is opaque does not seem fair.

And as both the founder of gCaptain and as a journalist who followed the owner’s story since long before the arrest… I can say that, back then, the ownership did not appear to be opaque. They spent a lot of money on public relations and had fooled a number of prominent people in Washington who gave legitimacy to the project. Just because the ownership looks shady in retrospect does not mean the crew realized the full truth when they signed onto the vessel.

No one would blame India for jailing proven criminals but to arrest a crew for signing on without full realization of the intent of the owners is not ok. And neither is holding them while your country’s thicky bureaucratic justice system ponders over their case and fails to arrest the prime suspects (the owners).

Arrest the owners, prove the crews innocent or guilt and do it in a reasonable amount of time please sir! Keep the master and chief engineer in jail if you must but don’t let the junior men languish in jail while your detectives at Q Branch try to lift the fog surrounding ownership.