International maritime charity Sailors’ Society, which has been supporting the crew of anti-piracy vessel MV Seaman Guard Ohio and their families, has welcomed their acquittal today and will be offering them counselling and other practical help to rebuild their lives.
This morning, a judge in Chennai, India acquitted the 35 men of weapons charges. They were previously convicted in January 2016 and handed down a five year prison term.
Sailors’ Society has been working closely with the Indian and Ukrainian crew and families from the ship. The charity’s crisis response network, which specialises in trauma recovery, is offering them counselling and support to reintegrate into their communities.
Stuart Rivers, CEO of Sailors’ Society, said: “Our chaplain in Chennai Manoj Joy is currently breaking the news to the crew and their families, who have been desperately waiting to hear the result.
“Once Manoj receives the release papers from the court he will travel to the prison where the men are being held to secure their release and organise their transport back to their loved ones.
“The families will be overjoyed – but it can take considerable time and support to recover from an ordeal like this. They have missed precious years with their loved ones, including births and deaths of their close family.
“Our specially trained chaplains are offering reintegration support for any of the ex- prisoners and their families who need it.”
Manoj provided welfare and financial support for the crew and their families throughout their ordeal, as well as helping the seafarers’ lawyers prepare their appeal.
Previously a merchant navy captain and a shipping advisor for an international law firm, Manoj regularly visited the ship’s Indian crew members and Ukrainian Captain and Chief Engineer, who have been split between jails more than 14 hours journey apart.
He spoke to the crew and their families on a daily basis, providing counselling and updates on the case, and will be meeting the crew as they leave prison to offer them financial help for their journeys home.
“It’s a very emotional day for the families of the crew,” Manoj said.
“They have been suffering terribly, not knowing when they next time would be that they would see their fathers, husbands or sons.”
Manoj also helped fight for the Ukrainian captain of the ship, M. Dudnik Valentyn.
He has been working closely with Sailors’ Society Eastern Europe crisis response co-ordinator, Alexander Dimitrevitch, who has been supporting Capt Valentyn’s family back home in Ukraine.
Sailors’ Society has also worked closely with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), who have provided financial support towards Capt Valentyn’s medical treatment.
Sailors’ Society has seven chaplains in India and launched its Crisis Response Network Asia in January.
The charity, which supports seafarers around the world, has more than 50 trained crisis responders around the world who offer a 24-hour support service to seafarers suffering from trauma.