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ITF to pay for Seaman Guard Ohio appeal

ITF to pay for Seaman Guard Ohio appeal
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) is to fund an appeal on behalf of the crew of the Seaman Guard Ohio who were jailed for five years by an Indian court earlier this month.

The crew of 25 private security personnel and 10 seafarers were sentenced to five years “rigorous imprisonment” by a Tuticorin court on 12 January for illegally entering Indian waters with weapons in October 2013.

The ITF said on Tuesday it would pay for legal support for an appeal. “We have now completed a full legal analysis of the court’s judgment and we firmly believe there are grounds for appeal. We will match our determination with funds. We hope that the – flag of convenience – flag state, Sierra Leone, will also be moved to help these seafarers,” said David Heindel, chair of the ITF’s seafarer’s section.

“This is a clear case of criminalisation of the vessel’s crew. They have been sentenced for supposedly being in charge of weapons that they would never have handled. How can you imprison a ship’s cook for five years for weapons possession when the only thing he’s handled is pots and pans? It’s an injustice.”

Heindel also had strong words for the owners of the Seaman Guard Ohio, AdvanFort, which left their crew unpaid and without legal support in India.

“The real scandal is that the company responsible, AdvanFort, has been able to play fast and loose with rules, regulations, vessel registration and insurance, thereby dropping the ship’s crew and the armed guards into this mess. Having done so they have abandoned their employees and washed their hands of them. Given its behaviour throughout this affair, AdvanFort does not deserve to continue to exist in business.”