India has detained a bulk carrier with a crew of 21 Ukrainian seafarers and two Irish security guards after finding four self-loading rifles and live cartridges, said to be for defence against piracy.
The vessel has been named as the 2004-built, 55,137 dwt Genco Provence and the arrest took place in Morbi on December 5, according to a Lloyd’s List Intelligence correspondent. It is not clear whether the ship is still being held, or which security company provided the guards.
The incident highlights increasing sensitivity in many countries over carriage of weaponry on merchant ships as defence against Somali pirates.
Earlier this year, Egypt banned carriage of armed guards and weapons through its territorial waters, including the Suez Canal. However, the prohibition was short lived, following reports of diplomatic protests from several embassies.
South Africa has arrested several masters in similar circumstances. Arnel Gollaba, master of Salhus Shipping ’s 1985-built, 274,728 dwt Bow Baha , was tried in Richards Bay as a representative of the owner.
To avoid delaying the vessel, Mr Gollaba pleaded guilty and received a suspended fine.
The crew of Genco Provence , which the LLI database associates with New York-based Genco , insisted that the rifles and ammunition were for self-defence against pirate attack, and were properly declared in advance.
However, the Indian authorities were apparently not convinced and demanded authorisation documents to prove that the guards, or the vessel, or both, were authorised to carry weapons.
Genco Provence had declared 320 cartridges, but the Indian authorities say they found 392 cartridges on board.