Chennai: One of the sailors arrested from American-owned arms carrier Seaman Guard Ohio, and currently lodged in a Tamil Nadu jail is restless and talking to himself. The others are fine, a prison official said.
He dismissed as false, media reports that the sailor tried to commit suicide.
A senior official in the prison department said: “The person is under high stress. We have told his shipmates to keep an eye on him and counsel him.”
Reportedly the sailor had earlier tried to kill himself while on board the ship owned by American company AdvanFort. He had attempted to hang himself but was saved.
Prison officials said that the ship’s crew and security guards have been lodged in a dormitory cell.
“Except for one sailor, all are behaving well. They have been provided bread, jam, omelettes and boiled potatoes,” the official said.
Meanwhile officials from the British Deputy High Commission met their six nationals who are among the 35 crewmen and guards from Seaman Guard Ohio lodged in the Palayamkottai central prison in Tirunelveli district.
On Sunday, the police arrested five people belonging to Tuticorin district for supplying around 1,500 litres of diesel to the ship illegally.
Flying West African country Sierra Leone’s flag, the Seaman Guard Ohio was in Indian waters on the night of October 11, around 15 nautical miles from Tuticorin port.
The Coast Guard escorted the ship with 35 people (10 crew and 25 security guards) to Tuticorin port on October 12.
Officials from different security departments questioned the ship’s personnel as automatic rifles, bullets and other arms were found on board the vessel.
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.
A marine police official said that the crew members are giving contradictory statements. Also, the papers presented by them do not support their oral version.
According to the Coast Guard, eight of the crew members are Indians and two Ukrainians.
On October 18 the Tamil Nadu police arrested 33 crew members and security personnel of the Seaman Guard Ohio. A court later sent all of them to 14 days’ judicial custody.
Police also seized 35 weapons and 5,680 rounds of ammunition from the vessel.
Two crew members were left on the vessel for its upkeep and maintenance till AdvanFort made alternate arrangements. However they too were arrested and sent to judicial custody on October 19.
Of the 25 security guards who have been arrested, six are British, 14 Estonians, one Ukrainian and four Indians.
According to a website that tracks marine traffic, the last known port of call for Seaman Guard Ohio was Sharjah.
The ship’s owner, AdvanFort, which specialises in providing maritime security against pirates, claimed the ship entered Indian waters to escape the fury of Cyclone Phailin.
However, the cyclone-hit Odisha and Andhra Pradesh are far off from Tuticorin where the ship was detected. It is also not known what the ship was doing in the Bay of Bengal instead of the Indian Ocean.
A police official said the ship was loitering around India for the past month for reasons still unknown.
The police official also wondered about the reason for buying 1,500 litres of diesel illegally instead of fuelling the ship at Sharjah, or through legal channels at any of the Indian ports.
He however discounted the possibility of the ship being used for arms smuggling.