Navy chief warns of 26/11-like situation

Navy chief warns of 26/11-like situation

Merchant ships loaded with guns and ammunition, with combatants and armed guards as crew members can spawn another 26/11 like situation, unless there is a mechanism to check those ships in international waters, warns Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi.

“There are scores of ships operating as floating armouries, outside any coastal state jurisdiction. It could lead to a 26/11 type situation in the absence of any regulation,” Joshi told reporters here on Tuesday ahead of the Navy Day.

The Navy chief cited the example of M V Seaman Guard Ohio which was intercepted by Indian authorities in October off the Tuticorin coast with 25 armed guards of four different nationalities.

The ship is a special purpose vessel for privately contracted armed security personnel who are paid to defend cargo ships in areas at high risk for piracy.

Owned by Virginia-based maritime security firm AdvanFort, the ship was carrying 35 weapons, including 31 assault rifles, 3 normal rifles and one pistol in violation of Indian regulations. “There are close to 140 private security companies in the north Indian Ocean which hire privately contracted armed security personnel. These personnel shift between vessels at sea, without entering any port or coastal state regulated maritime territory,” he said.

Few of them are known to be harbouring combatants, who are serving military personnel masquerading as armed guards. Navy officials did not disclose the identity of those ships and combatants.

As lack of any provision to deal with such vessels or armed personnel hampers legal action, India has asked the international maritime organisation to formulate a regulatory framework to deal with such issues.

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