The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) is to pay for legal support for the court appeal of the ship’s crewmembers of the Seaman Guard Ohio.
Fully 27 months since they were first detained in India the 35 men onboard US private security vessel Seaman Guard Ohio were all handed down five year hard labour jail sentences and fines of Rs3,000 ($45) earlier this month.
The men were working for US firm AdvanFort, the owners of the ship, which was transiting Indian waters when apprehended in October, 2013.
ITF seafarers’ section chair Dave Heindel said: “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.
“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.
“We trust that this point will be accepted on appeal.”
He continued: “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.”