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Moscow asks MEA to intervene as HC detains Russian cargo ship at Cochin port   

Kerala High Court Monday asked MV MAIA-1 — anchored in Cochin port — to be arrested until it pays dues to tune of $23,503 (approx. Rs 19 lakh) to Estonian firm Bunker Partner OU.

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New Delhi: The Russian Embassy in India has asked the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to intervene in the matter pertaining to the detention of a cargo ship carrying military cargo for the Indian Navy in Cochin in line with a Kerala High Court order Monday.

The Kerala High Court in its order asked the ship — MV MAIA-1 — anchored in Cochin port to be arrested until it pays dues to tune of $23,503 (approx. Rs 19 lakh) to an Estonian firm named Bunker Partner OU, headquartered in capital Tallinn.

“Russian Embassy in India is aware of the Russian cargo ship detention in the Indian port of Cochin, on board of which a military cargo for the Indian armed forces was delivered,” the Russian Embassy said in a media statement.

It added, “According to the preliminary information, these actions are connected with the claim of the Estonian shore service company Bunker Partner OU, which claimed that the owners of the ship allegedly had a debt.”

“We would like to underline that the court allowed the unloading of cargo, since it has nothing to do with the lawsuit.”

Official sources told ThePrint that this is a “commercial dispute between two foreign firms”. So, wherever the ship reaches, such a demand can be made by Estonia if they have a representative in that country, an official source said. “This has got nothing to do with the Indian government,” the official added.  

V.J. Mathew, senior advocate representing the Estonian firm, said all coastal high courts can arrest foreign vessels while they are within Indian territory and territorial waters of that particular high court. 

“This is as per the Indian Admiralty and Settlement Act, 2017, which is based on international convention on Arrest of Vessels,” Mathew said. “The cargo vessel can leave once they submit a bank guarantee… later it can invoke an arbitration clause.”

‘Official request for explanation’

The embassy also said the “Russian Consulate General in Chennai is directly in control of this situation”. 

“The embassy has sent to the Ministry of External Affairs of India an official request for explanation of the circumstances of the incident,” Moscow said.

It added, “We have also asked the ministry to ensure unconditional observance of the rights of the Russian shipowners and crew.”

The case was filed at the Kerala High Court by T.X. Harry, a resident of Kerala who holds the power of attorney for the Estonian firm.

The Kerala High Court order said the container vessel is lying within the “territorial waters of this court”.

According to a former Indian ambassador to Russia, who spoke on condition of anonymity, such a case in an Indian high court is unheard of.

The veteran diplomat said the action might have been taken because Estonia is a member of the European Union (EU) and is party to the sanctions that have been imposed on Russia in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Estonia has been among the strongest critics of Russia since the war began.

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

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