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India Detains Russian Ship Carrying Munitions for Unpaid Fuel Bill

Russian cargo ship arrested while loaded with munitions
Russian cargo ship arrived in the port of Cochin, India delivering munitions for the Indian Navy (Cochin Port Trust)

Published Jul 19, 2022 12:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

Russian and Indian officials are working to avoid an international incident after a Russian-flagged general cargo ship was arrested when it arrived in the Indian port of Cochin. It would likely have gone unnoticed except for the fact that the vessel was transporting Russian munitions due to be delivered to the Indian Navy in Kochi. Questions were also raised over the detention because the vessel and its operator are both designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as part of the ongoing actions against Russian shipping interests.

The 12,700 dwt cargo ship Maia 1 reportedly departed the Russian port of Novorossiysk on June 25 and after making stops in Turkey and Egypt transited the Suez Canal. The vessel crossed the Indian Ocean arriving at Cochin on July 18. The 16-year-old vessel is believed to be operated by Russia’s Transmorflot Shipping Company, which the U.S. included on its list of designated companies in May 2022.

"The Embassy has sent to the Ministry of External Affairs of India an official request for explanation of the circumstances of the incident. We have also asked the Ministry to ensure unconditional observance of the rights of the Russian shipowners and crew," the Russian Embassy in Chennai said in a written statement.

The arrest warrant for the ship was issued by the Kerala High Court in India on July 18 and provided to the Cochin Port Trust. A review of court papers shows that the case was brought on behalf of an Estonian fuel and service company Bunker Partner OU located in Tallin, Estonia. The company claims it is due more than $23,500 in unpaid fuel bills. “The arrest, seizure, and detention of the ship was carried out after consideration of the admiralty suit,” Indian officials told the ANI news outlet.

Possibly to lessen the potential for an international incident, the court permitted the vessel to dock and unload its cargo. The Russian Embassy noted that the cargo was not involved in the claim. The Russian Consulate General in Chennai is in direct control of the situation they said in their statement.

The court has ruled that the ship should be detained until the amount due is deposited or until the ship owner furnishes security for the amount to the satisfaction of the court. 

The Maia 1 was permitted to leave the dock on July 18. Her current AIS signal shows her at anchor off the port of Cochin.