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Millennium Post

Arms and the Seaman Guard

It’s perhaps an all-American nightmare. The 33 odd crew members of a ship belonging to a US security firm, the MV Seaman Guard Ohio, now arrested and jailed after a five-day detention, tell an interesting albeit horrifying story of how the global business of private security has mushroomed over the years. The ship that had entered Indian waters several days back and was held on 12 October for allegedly not possessing papers for the ammunition that it had onboard, clearly pointing towards the fact that the arms were acquired illegally for purposes that could not be declared outright. Evidently, the crew members, who have been sent to 14-day judicial custody, work for the US maritime security company AdvanFort, and have an international makeup, with varied nationalities, such as British, Estonian, Ukranian and even Indian. Intriguingly, none of them are Americans, testifying that the security business has indeed globalised and security on the international waters is now being outsourced to private companies, who are carrying out the work that ideally should be coordinated amongst the respective governments. The MV Seaman Guard crew and AdvanFort claim that their ammunitions, a hefty lot comprising 34 assault rifles (perhaps one for each of the crew members) and around 4,000 rounds of ammunition, as seized by the Indian Coast Guard off Tuticorin coast, were meant to take on the rampant problem of piracy on the high waters, particularly ensuing from Somalian and other African shores.

Nevertheless, what the conduct of the ship’s crew indicates is really appalling. Not only is illegal trade in arms thriving well, but that, guided by their own governments that are lenient of gun rules and driven by powerful gun lobbies, but also blatant incursion into other sovereign territories is not something that raises eyebrows any longer. Not only are the private and military armed guards plying on international water and air space extremely ill-regulated, most of the times they run amok, as evident in the infamous Italian marine episode, in which two innocent fishermen were killed off the coast of Kerala by two Italian marine guards on an oil tanker. Even though the Seaman Guard Ohio was braced to defend itself against pirates, which is an acknowledged menace on the high seas, why could be the reason behind its not having adequate papers to back up its possessions? Does it not establish that in practice, the private security firms, never disclose the exact amount of arms that they deal with, clearly for the purposes of (re)selling it in the arms black market that in turn fuels terrorism and insurgency globally?
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