Avant Garde issues statement on its red sea floating armory

avant garde floating armory

Oct 17, 2015 (LBO) – Avant Garde Maritime Services Ltd has issued a statement to the media on its floating armory which was the subject of a magisterial inquiry.

In September, a magisterial inquiry into a floating armory of Avant Garde Maritime Services ended after the Criminal Investigation Department said it would not proceed with the case under advice of the Attorney General, according to media reports.

The statement is below:

Avant Garde Maritime Services (Pvt) Ltd Media Release With Regard To Merchant Vessel Avant Garde

Proliferation of sea piracy in the Western Indian Ocean resulted in International Maritime
Organization (IMO) establishing a High Risk Area in which piracy threat was greater. Many Western
Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSCs) started providing security to ships in this HRA, and
since Sri Lanka was at one end of the HRA based their operations off Sri Lanka. They also obtained
the required weapons belonging to Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) from Rakna Arakshaka Lanka
Ltd (RALL) for convenience.

Whilst providing these weapons to those maritime security companies, 197 weapons belonging to
GOSL were misplaced, as once issued from Colombo, there was no way of monitoring them.

Avant Garde then conceptualised and proposed to GOSL a system to eliminate any possibility of
misplacing, but instead properly account for weapons once issued by RALL, through the
establishment of many operational centres in the periphery of the Indian Ocean in a ‘Closed Circuit
Network’ (CCN) where any RALL weapon issued from one location had to be returned to any other
location of this closed circuit network. Floating Armouries were to complement the CCN wherever
land operational centres were not possible. Then there was to be a guarantee that any weapon
issued would be returned. The proposal also entailed that the entire investment to be borne by
Avant Garde without a cent being invested by GOSL.

Since the proposal was conceptualised and proposed by Avant Garde, it has the intellectual right to
it.

Consequently, the CCN was established in 2012 through a joint venture with RALL where the
accountability of weapons in those operational centres were to be by RALL representatives. These
weapons were approved by theMOD. The operation progressed satisfactorily and smoothly. In
2014, the ship Used as the floating armoury in Red Sea was replaced by another ship from Sri Lanka,
which was renamed as MV Avant Garde and set sail from Colombo on 07 April.

Transparency of the operation was assured by regular reporting to MOD and RALL, and the full
Operation has been clearly shown in the Avant Garde web site (www.avantmaritime.com) from the
inception. The venture continued successfully and the CCN concept of Avant Garde ensured that
not a single weapon was misplaced since then. There was international acclaim of this operation
and the model was suggested to be taken as a template for other Operators by authorities of the
calibre no less than the Indian Navy Commander and the UK based Security Association of Maritime
Industry (SAMI).

However, events in January 2015 leading to the baseless detention of the floating armoury at Galle;
MV Mahanuwara, caused many international Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSCs), till that
time reliable clients of Avant Garde, to abandon Avant Garde and migrate to alternative solutions
greatly reducing the business of Avant Garde. By the time Avant Garde was cleared by Galle
Magistrate and the Attorney General’s department, the damage has already been done.

The resultant loss of revenue made the business untenable, and RALL was apprised of the situation
at many meetings, as well as in writing, that the floating armoury in the Red Sea will have to be
therefore, withdrawn.

Consequently, arrangements were made to withdraw the floating armoury in the Red Sea to return
to Sri Lanka. In addition to the daily weapon report prepared by the RALL representative on board,
an independent list of items on board was prepared by the RALL representative on board; Lt Col
Albert Tillekaratne. The list was sent to RALL and the Head of the RALL Armoury, Major Wijekoon
confirmed to its accuracy.

Thereafter, on 22 Sep, RALL was requested for armed guards for the passage through the High Risk
Area (HRA), which is a security measure adopted by any ship, and the MOD approved it on 23 Sep
keeping all other relevant authorities, including the Sri Lanka Navy, informed (MOD letter No
MOD/CS/ SS/ RAKNA/ 20 dated 23 Sep). Therefore, the contention of the Sri Lanka Navy that it was
unaware of the vessel was in the least, preposterous.

The vessel left the Red Sea on 24 Sep, and at the same time a letter was originated seeking
approval of RALL to transfer the consignment of weapons, ammunition and associated equipment to
its armory at Galle once the ship arrived in Galle (Chairman Avant Garde Letter No AST/STP/ 13
dated 24 Sep 2015). The Secretary of MOD accepted receipt of that letter at a recent media
interview. However, the approval to it was not as prompt as should have been, hence the ship,
having arrived off the port of Galle, remained in international waters outside Sri Lanka territorial
waters and Galle port limits awaiting the approval.

When the ship left Red Sea, there was a request to embark and return to Sri Lanka 3 Sri Lankan sea
marshals who have been in the employment of a foreign PMSCs (Tundra) based in Sri Lanka. They
were provided the facility as supernumeraries of the ship, which is not unusual. The PMSC local
agent, MALSHIP, in its efforts to disembark these 3 Sri Lankan Sea Marshals expeditiously, has
submitted a request to DHM Galle, which is not within their purview, and in has entered a wrong
name as the captain of the vessel.

The document seeking clearance of a ship is submitted by the ship’s local agent, and MALSHIP has
no business to do it even to clear its own personnel. That needs to be done by the ships local
agent. Therefore, whatever MALSHIP has submitted has no validity at all. It perplexing why DHM
Galle accepted such an invalid request when it should have been simply disregarded and discarded.
Neither Avant Garde nor the ship’s local agent, Sri Lanka Shipping Ltd, was aware of MALSHIP
request, and even if any of them were aware, it would have been dismissed as irrelevant and
invalid. An investigation, if any, should be initiated as to why DHM Galle even accepted it, let
alone publicise it and release a totally irrelevant, wrong and damning information to the public.

The ship, MV Avant Garde, remained outside the port limit in international waters awaiting
clearance from MOD. This is the usual practice of any ship awaiting whatever clearance or
approval. Even then, for good order, Avant Garde made it a point to keep Mr. Victor Samaraweera;
Chairman RALL, Adm Jayantha Perera; Presidential Advisor on Maritime Affairs, Senior Additional
Secretary; MOD, Mr. DMS Dissanayaka, and Secretary RALL; Mr. DRM Ranatunga informed about the
ship waiting outside awaiting MOD clearance to transfer the consignment to RALL armoury.

The MOD gave approval on 6 Oct 2015 (MOD Letter No MODUD/CS/FA/AT dated 6 Oct ’15), which
was received at 9.45 am. but the Sri Lanka Navy boarded the ship just 30 minutes before and
assumed command. The action of the Navy is shocking in view of it being informed regularly of the
progress as indicated above.

It is relevant at this juncture to emphasise that Avant Garde has always conformed to national and
international laws from the inception and, as mentioned earlier, has been receiving accolades and
admirations from players of the industry as well as independent international experts in maritime
affairs.

Also, there is no discrepancy whatsoever in the consignment of weapons, ammunition and
associated equipment maintained by RALL representatives on board and exactly tallies with details
available at RALL armoury.

In light of above, the reason for selective targeting of Avant Garde is the mystery, not anything
that it has alluded to have done.

It is clear that many envious business contenders are at the bottom of these efforts to disrupt
activities of Avant Garde, but unfortunately without realising the great and irrevocable damage
done to the country in general and Sri Lankan shipping industry in particular. Galle has become a
thriving business centre for ship agents and that is now being threatened affecting livelihood of
many.

Despite all this, the projection of this incident as a mysterious event appears to be a systematic
effort to mislead the public at large. There are over 15 floating armoun’es operating in the Red Sea
and Gulf of Oman servicing many foreign PMSCs, and Avant Garde was the undoubted business
leader made possible by its incise knowledge of the business, until deriding rhetoric in Sri Lanka
casted a shadow over the stability of its business. It has caused many clients to take business with
Avant Garde elsewhere, losing invaluable foreign exchange to the country and depriving
respectable employment opportunities to many retired ex-servicemen war heroes who have
sacrificed their youth for others to live peacefully. What a travesty!

It is also relevant to mention that the concepts and operational planning of Avant Garde conforming
to national and international laws and obligations to maintain its legitimacy are being conducted by
many specialists and experts in the field, comprising of 2 former Navy Commanders, a former
Director General of the Coast Guard, a former Chief of Staff of the Army, 2 former Dle, 3 senior
retired civil servants, very senior foreign Naval officers, supported by many other very senior and
well respected senior military officers. They assure complete accountability and transparency of
all Avant Garde activities and such an experienced team is unlikely to be found in any other
business organisation in the world. The expertise of those people should not be undermined nor
ridiculed. Unfortunately that appears to be happening in Sri Lanka, where allegations are being
made without any grounds whatsoever, in deriding rhetoric to mislead the general public, which
could be considered as downright betrayal.

Major General (Retd) Rohan Kaduwela
Head of Secretariat (AGMS Operations)
Date : 16 October 2015