Seven held after British military boards threatened oil tanker in English Channel

Cheryl Sanders
October 26, 2020

Hampshire police later said all 22 crew members of the tanker were safe.

The ship later docked in Southampton.

British forces were reported to have descended on to the vessel by rope from four Royal Navy helicopters after nightfall to end the 10-hour standoff.

"The seven stowaways - believed to be Nigerians seeking asylum in the United Kingdom - were detained and handed over to Hampshire Police", he said.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that the operation had taken place "in dark skies, and worsening weather". "People are safe tonight thanks to their efforts".

"Armed forces have gained control of the ship and seven individuals have been detained", the ministry said.

Two sources with knowledge of the situation said the vessel was the tanker Nave Andromeda.

The Special Boat Service, a naval special forces unit that works closely with the Special Air Service (SAS), is based in Poole in southern England.

He said: "There are reports the crew are sheltering at certain points on the ship".

The 748ft-long (228m) ship is known to have left Lagos in Nigeria on 5 October and was south of the Isle of Wight when the police were called.

"It was reported that a number of stowaways were on board, and they had made verbal threats towards the crew".

Lawyers for the vessel's owners - Greek shipping company Navios - said the crew had been aware of the stowaways on board for some time.

The crew then retreated to the ship's secure citadel, where attackers are unable to enter, added the source.

The coast guard scrambled helicopters to the scene, and authorities imposed a three-mile exclusion zone around the vessel.

Tobias Ellwood, chair of the House of Commons' Defense Committee, confirmed the action in a BBC interview and said no one was hurt.

"Of course, this is a live Police investigation and there is a limit to what I can say, but I can confirm the crew are safe and the operation to secure the vessel concluded successfully", Hancock told Sky News broadcaster.

Bob Sanguinetti, chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Nothing at this stage suggests that this was hijacking and in fact hijacking of this nature is extremely uncommon".

British forces stormed an Italian cargo ship in December 2018, regaining control after stowaways threatened crew as the vessel sailed close to the coast of southeast England.

A spokeswoman for Associated British Ports (ABP) said it had no comment on the incident, but the PA news agency understands the port received contact from the ship although it had not been refused entry to the harbour.

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