Nautilus International has appealed to UK prime minister Theresa May to intervene to end the ordeal being suffered by the crew of a counter-piracy ship who have been imprisoned in India.
The Union is urging the British government to take 'the strongest possible action' to secure the release of the multinational crew of 35 seafarers and security personnel from the vessel Seaman Guard Ohio - including six British former members of the armed forces.
The Sierra Leone-registered ship was detained by the Indian authorities in October 2013 after it entered the country's territorial waters for bunkering. Police accused the crew of carrying unregistered weapons and making an illicit money transfer for the bunkers and they were sentenced to five years of 'rigorous imprisonment'.
In a letter to Mrs May, Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson expressed concern about the 'unjust treatment and the dubious legal proceedings' taken against the men.
With a renewal of activity by Somalia pirates presently underway, there are growing concerns within the shipping industry of fresh threats to the safety of shipping in the region
Mr Dickinson said there is evidence that the men are being incarcerated in abysmal conditions in Chennai, despite the significant questions about the way in which the legal proceedings were pursued against them.
'With a renewal of activity by Somalia pirates presently underway, there are growing concerns within the shipping industry of fresh threats to the safety of shipping in the region,' Mr Dickinson added.
'There have been warnings that shipowners need to intensify onboard security and that there should be no further reductions in the naval forces deployed in the region.
'In the light of this, I think it is more important than ever that renewed attempts are made to secure the release of the Seaman Guard Ohio's crew,' he told Mrs May. 'It is sadly ironic that, in this case, those who have been employed to protect seafarers from attack have been treated so badly.'