Update: The Seaman Guard Ohio’s Chief Engineer, not the ship’s captain, attempted suicide.
Earlier report (with further updates)
Indian media is reporting this morning that the captain of the maritime security vessel, Seaman Guard Ohio, which has been detained by Indian authorities, attempted to hang himself in his stateroom. He was saved by his crew before he was able to carry out his plan.
Captain Dudnik Valentyn has been through a lot. In 2011, he and his crew aboard the MV Bilda spent 11 months under the watchful eye of Somali pirates after their vessel was hijacked on New Years day. This latest personal tragedy once again puts himself in a situation that he may feel hopeless to fix and perhaps quite unjustified.
The below graphics via Windward Maritime Analytics Services Company depict the track of the Seaman Guard Ohio before it was detained by Indian authorities.
Analysts at Windward point out that for the past month, the Seaman Guard Ohio has bee conducting patrols approximately 50 to 60 nautical miles south of India for the past month.
On the 9th of October, the vessel started to head toward shore and anchored near Tuticorin Port (Tamil Nadu state), where it had previously anchored a month ago, before leaving to its last patrol activity. It anchored 13 nautical miles offshore, just outside India’s territorial waters.
On the 12th of October, the Seaman Guard Ohio began sailing towards the port.
AdvanFort president Will Watson commented in a recent phone conversation that the vessel was directed into port while the vessel was beyond the 12 nautical mile territorial waters limit. He notes that the hard turn to port in the second image above indicates the turn made when Indian authorities called the Seaman Guard Ohio on the radio requesting them to come in to port due to bad weather from Cyclone Phailin.
When the ship came closer, Indian authorities then arrested the entire crew, claiming they had violated Indian territorial waters. Watson notes that India has claimed that a pair of islands off the coast extends the territorial waters of India and that the Seaman Guard Ohio was thus inside the 12 nautical mile limit when it was detained. AdvanFort’s legal council disagrees with India’s claims, noting that these uninhabited “sandbars” do not extend India’s territorial waters and that their territorial waters should be measured from the shoreline of India.
At face value, it seems like India may be trying to avoid getting egg on their face by insisting that the ship was inside territorial waters when it was detained.
Is this a legitimate claim by the Indian government or state-sponsored piracy? Regardless, this is truly a sad situation for the seafarers on the Seaman Guard Ohio, and an industry as a whole, who’s mission is to protect the very people that are now being held.
The entire crew is currently being held in an Indian jail, with the exception of one individual who is in the hospital. AdvanFort is currently reaching out via all diplomatic channels to try and resolve this issue.