Policemen escort crew members of MV Seaman Guard Ohio outside a court in Tuticorin on Friday. (Reuters)
Oct. 19: The captain of the detained American ship, MV Seaman Guard Ohio, tried to hang himself in his cabin this afternoon but was stopped by CISF guards on duty, police said.
Dudnik Valentyn, 60, was spotted by a guard rigging up a noose in his ship cabin. The guard alerted his colleagues, rushed in and pinned the captain down, the police said.
The captain told the police that he had decided to kill himself as he was depressed at the turn of events and was scared of the conditions in jail.
Valentyn knows captivity well. His ship was held hostage by Somali pirates off the coast of Kenya in January 2011, officials at the firm that owns the Ohio told The Telegraph.
Tamil Nadu police yesterday arrested Ohio’s 10 crew members and 25 armed guards on charges that their ship, armed with guns and ammunition, had entered Indian waters without permits. Thirty-three members were packed off to Palayam Kotti jail.
Valentyn was allowed to remain on the anti-piracy ship along with chief engineer Sidorenko Valeriy for maintenance duty on the request of William Watson, the owner of Virginia-based firm AdvanFort that owns the Ohio. The ship was placed under CISF watch.
Before he took charge of the Ohio, Valentyn was master of the Ukrainian MV Blida. The cargo ship was held hostage for 11 months, after which the pirates released it in exchange for ransom.
Initial reports today said it was Valeriy who attempted suicide but the police denied this. Valentyn and Valeriy, who are both from the Ukraine, were arrested and taken to the local police station in Tuticorin. They were taken for a check-up to the Port Trust hospital before being put in jail.
Speaking over the phone, Ohio owner Watson said: “The master, first engineer and the rest of the crew are all very distressed right now. They believe they’ve done nothing wrong.”
Watson said AdvanFort had engaged independent marine experts to prove the Ohio was beyond 13 nautical miles off India’s coast when it was intercepted by the coast guard and asked to come to shore.
Officials from the US State Department, British foreign office and the foreign ministries of Estonia and Ukraine today again spoke with counterparts in Delhi, seeking early release for the 35 Ohio members. The 35 include nationals of India, Estonia, Ukraine and Britain.