Detained US ship case going to Q branch police

Chennai, Oct 15 (IANS) The case relating to the detained US company-owned armed ship under the marine police is being shifted to Q branch of the Tamil Nadu Police, said a police official here Tuesday.

"The case is being transferred to the Q branch of Tamil Nadu Police. As far as investigations are concerned, the status quo continues," a marine police official, preferring anonymity, told IANS.

The Q branch monitors activities of banned organisations and people associated with such groups.

The Tamil Nadu government has sent a preliminary report to the central government on the episode and the final report will be sent later.

Flying West African country Sierra Leone's flag, Seaman Guard Ohio, owned by US company AdvanFort was in Indian waters Friday night around 15 nautical miles from Tuticorin port.

The Indian Coast Guard escorted the ship with 35 members (10 crew and 25 security guards) to Tuticorin port, around 600 km from here.

Officials from different security departments are questioning members of the ship as automatic rifles, bullets and other arms were found on board the vessel.

The Coast Guard said the authorisation for carrying arms onboard is yet to be produced and verified.

According to a marine police official, the security guards on the ship maintained that the arms were for providing security to ships, and they were waiting for further orders.

The marine police Monday registered a first information report (FIR) against the ship crew and other members.

The police official said the crew members are giving contradictory statements. Also, the papers presented by them do not support their oral version.

AdvanFort specialises in providing maritime security against pirates.

According to the Coast Guard, the vessel was manned by a 10-member crew, of which eight are Indians and two Ukrainians.

The vessel also had 25 security guards - six British, 14 Estonians, one Ukrainian and four Indians.

The ship also bought around 1,500 litres of diesel without proper papers. A case was registered for that as well.

According to a website that tracks marine traffic, the last known port of call for Seaman Guard Ohio was Sharjah.

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