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Navy At Sea Over MV Avant Garde

by Nirmala Kannangara

The letter sent by the Senior Assistant Secretary of Ministry of Defence to the Navy Commander and The letter sent by the Chairman of Avant Garde to the Secretary Defence Ministry

The administration of the Sri Lanka Navy has come under criticism for their failure to provide the MV Avant Garde vessel with the required facilities to enter the Sri Lankan waters from the Red Sea even after receiving Defence Ministry approval.

The MV Avant Garde had made a request to the Defence Ministry through Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Limited on September 22 seeking three marine security officers and necessary weapons for the vessel’s security on its voyage back to Sri Lanka. Although the Defence Ministry had granted the necessary approvals to the request by Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Limited for the MV Avant Garde the following day (September 23), the Sri Lanka Navy’s failure to dispatch the approval back to the vessel in Red Sea at the time had resulted in a suspicion as to what made the Navy to hold back the approval and then take MV Avant Garde into custody in the Red Sea on October 6.

The MV Avant Garde had called at the Galle Port on October 14, according to the Sri Lanka Customs.

Reliable sources from Avant Garde Maritime Services (AGMS) who wished to remain anonymous told The Sunday Leader that two prominent cabinet ministers were behind Sri Lanka Navy’s ‘illegal’ course of action to take the vessel of AGMS into custody although the vessel and its owning company had followed the due protocol. They also accused Sri Lanka Navy of their deliberate failure to carry out the approval of the Defence Ministry granted to the MV Avant Garde.

“In the future, we will reveal these two senior ministers. The reason why they want to discredit our service by implying that we are carrying out illegal maritime service is because these politicians want to get our licence cancelled and give it to one of their supporters,” sources alleged.

 

Incurring loses

 

According to sources, it is Rakna Arakshaka Lanka that had provided the necessary arms and ammunitions to MV Avant Garde. They added that their service started incurring losses since many of their clients had moved away from them after the wrong information highlighted by the media about the MV Mahanuwara vessel taken into custody on January 19 at the Galle Port.

“Consequently, Avant Garde Maritime Service started incurring huge losses, and since we could not bear the loss further, we decided to bring back the vessel to the country. While we were taking every step to bring this vessel back, Lt. Col Albert Thilakaratne who was on board representing Rakna Arakshaka Lanka took an inventory of the armoury and emailed the details to the Avant Garde Headquarters that had forwarded the details to Rakna Lanka. It was only after Rakna Lanka confirmed the inventory details which were matched with their records that we made the necessary request to the Defence Ministry seeking security for the ship to sail back to Sri Lanka,” sources added.

According to the sources, it is surprising why a reputed State establishment like Sri Lanka Navy had pretended that they were unaware that the return of the vessel to the country although they were in receipt of the letter Ref: MOD/ CS/ SS/ Rakna/ 20 dated September 23, 2015 by Defence Ministry Secretary.

“At the time the ship left the Red Sea waters, Rakna Arakshaka Lanka got three of its Sri Lankan marine security guards who have been providing security to an outside maritime security service – Tundra. Considering these three security guards as supernumeraries, we provided them with the necessary facilities to come back to Sri Lanka aboard ship. As they were assigned to Tundra Maritime Defense Services, their local agent Malship had informed the names of these three security guards to the relevant officials.

“Meanwhile, Avant Garde vessel’s local agent Sri Lanka Shipping had not submitted the necessary details of the ship captain in writing to the Sri Lanka Navy. It was Malship in their document have asked the Galle Port to give the names of the three security officers. Galle Port officials had given the Captain’s name incorrectly which led to the current fiasco. This mistake had been made by the Malship, but Avant Garde cannot take the responsibility although the Navy had told the media that we had provided wrong information to the port,” sources claimed.

 

ISPS Code

According to International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, when a commercial vehicle enters a port, a report on those who are on board and the goods on the vessel has to be given to the port 48 hours before.

“That was why we anchored the MV Avant Garde in the Red Sea till we get the proper approval to enter the port. Since there was a delay in getting the approval, Chairman of Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Victor Samaraweera had informed this to the Presidential Advisor on Maritime Affairs Admiral Jayantha Perera, Ministry of Defence Senior Assistant Secretary D.M.S. Dissanayake, and Secretary Rakna Lanka M.R. G. Ranatunge,” sources added.

He further said that on October 6 at 9.45am, the Defence Ministry had granted its approval to hand over the weapons to Rakna Arakshaka Lanka by a letter dated the same day- October 6, 2015 Ref: MODUD/ CS/ FA/ AT 2013.

“Just half an hour before we got the approval letter from the Defence Ministry, the Navy surrounded our ship and allowed the naval officers to enter the vessel and take its control. When we obtained all the necessary approvals, it is surprising why the Navy Commander had acted against the rules and regulations,” sources claimed.

Accusing the Sri Lanka Navy, the sources said that the Navy did not have the mandate to take MV Avant Garde ship into custody as it was in international waters.

“This ship was handed over to the Customs at the Galle Port, and it took five days for 35 officials from the Police, Navy, and Customs to take the inventory of the weapons on board. After the Sri Lankan media categorized Avant Garde as an illegal armoury, and as a result our services were not taken by our clients, we incurred a loss of US$ 6.5 million from January to August this year. That was the reason why we decided to come back to the country,” sources claimed.

Refuting allegations, Navy Spokesperson Commander Indika de Silva said they had followed the normal procedure and had not violated any rules or regulations.

“MV Avant Garde vessel was taken into navy custody for not following the protocol. After an inquiry, we did an investigation,” Commander De Silva said.

According to Commander De Silva, the Navy has the full authority to inspect a vessel which carried the Sri Lankan flag.

“If a ship is carrying our flag, we have the fullest authority to enter the vessel and take it into custody if they do not have the proper documents,” Commander De Silva added.

 

Report on investigation

He further said that the investigation report has now been submitted to the Defence Ministry and that he is not authorized to reveal its details and asked The Sunday Leader to contact the Defence Ministry and get the details of the investigation report.

However, when The Sunday Leader’s sister newspaper Irudina contacted Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi, he has confirmed that the Defence Ministry had granted permission on October 6 to the request made by Rakna Arakshaka Lanka for sea transportation of weapons and ammunitions along with associated equipment and accessories to the floating armoury at Galle through sea port in Sri Lanka, belonging to private maritime security companies registered with Avant Garde Maritime Services.

Hettiarachchi has also observed that the defence establishment had received some incorrect information about the vessel and that it was taken into custody for not following certain regulations.

 

 

5 Comments for “Navy At Sea Over MV Avant Garde”

  1. de silva

    LOOKING AT THIS WHOLE EPISODE WE THE PUBLIC FEEL THAT THE ONES INVOLVED ARE MISSING THE WOODS FOR THE TREES.
    WHAT IS PERTINENT IS TO ASCERTAIN THE PERMIT GRANTED BY THE ADDITIONAL SECRETARY TO DEFENSE DURING THE LAST REGIME IS A DOCUMENT VALID IN LAW. SINCE IT GIVES RISE T THE CREATION OF A MONOPOLY DEPRIVING THE OTHER CITIZENS OF THIS COUNTRY EQUAL OPPORTUNITY.

    ONCE THAT IS CLEARED THE WHOLE OPERATION OF AVANT GARD WILL B PROVEN AS ILLEGAL.

    THEN EACH AND EVRY ELEMENT CAN B ANALYZED FOR ITS CONTRIBUTION IN THE ILLEGAL PROCESS.

    THEREAFTER THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK MUST B PUT IN PLACE URGENTLY SO THAT ALL CONCERNED AND INTERESTED PERSONS CAN CONTINUE THIS LUCRATIVE TRADE.

    • Go Ponil

      What is so bad in earing money by giving protection to ships going through suez canal to indian ocean.

      Here we had experienced personnel and it was source of income for the and the country.

      This is what happens- “the frog in the well think the whole world is the well” do not see anything beyond that.

      Sri Lankans are so stupid !!

  2. daggy

    What is the EXPOSE here.
    The defence ministry is acting dumb instead of clearing matters.

  3. Monohar

    maritime services of providing security guards and other facilities looks a new industry in SL. Appears a legitimate industry. Appoint a commission to find out reasons as to why Navy Ignored Defense ministry directive.

  4. Jake Appuhamy

    What a bunch of Bull-shit claim by so called avant guard. It seems everyone is forgetting how this company was was established and the secrecy behind the organization. Their very existence is questionable.If SL navy’s report and investigations are accurate these (Avant Guard) are nothing but gun runners in the high seas.

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