Global Upfront Newspapers
Cover News

16 British Commandos storm 42,000-ton oil tanker off the Isle of Wight from air and sea to detain seven ‘Nigerian stowaways’ who ‘threatened to kill crew’

  • Seven suspects were detained after military seized control of oil tanker that laid anchor in the English Channel
  • Restriction zone of five nautical miles was in place around vessel, which last sailed from Nigeria on October 6
  • Ship is reportedly Liberian-registered and set to dock in Southampton at around 10.30am Sunday morning 
  • Lawyers representing owners of the vessel said the incident ‘100 per cent not a hijacking’, despite reports
  • Violence began when crew tried to lock stowaways in cabin prior to handing them over to Border Force

By James Robinson and Henry Martin For Mailonline, , 26 October 2020

SBS commandos retook an oil tanker off the Isle of Wight coast in just seven minutes after reports of ‘Nigerian stowaways’ on board becoming violent and ‘threatening the crew’ sparked fears of a hijacking. 

Crew members reportedly sought shelter in a safe room on the Liberian-registered oil tanker, named the Nave Andromeda, which was due to arrive at Southampton at 10.30am.  

The Special Boat Service landed 16 personnel aboard the vessel via air and sea following a ten-hour standoff, with two Royal Navy Merlin helicopters and two Wildcats also used in the operation, Sky News reported.  

A frigate, believed to be HMS Richmond, was also on standby but not needed during the operation, which was completed in around seven minutes. 

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

Violence started when crew members found the stowaways and tried to lock them in a cabin prior to handing them to Border Force at Southampton, according to Richard Meade, editor of shipping journal Lloyd’s List. 

A source on the Isle of Wight claimed during a mayday call this morning the captain told an operator ‘I’m trying to keep them calm but please send help.’

The source added: ‘The captain clearly stated he feared for their lives and needed urgent assistance, they needed rescuing… it was desperation, you could hear the fear in his voice.’ 

Tobias Ellwood, chair of the House of Commons’ Defense Committee, confirmed the action and said no one was hurt. The stowaways are now in custody.   

Reports claimed that the captain of the Nave Andromeda – believed to be capable of carrying 42,000 tons of crude oil – put out a ‘desperate’ call for rescue because he ‘feared for his life’ as stowaways smashed glass on board and even made threats to kill.  

Crew members reportedly sought shelter in a safe room on the Liberian-registered oil tanker, named the Nave Andromeda, which was due to arrive at Southampton at 10.30am+15

Crew members reportedly sought shelter in a safe room on the Liberian-registered oil tanker, named the Nave Andromeda, which was due to arrive at Southampton at 10.30amIt was originally suggested that the tanker had been hijacked, but lawyers representing the owners of the vessel, which had come from Nigeria, today told the BBC the incident was '100 per cent not a hijacking' (pictured: The stern of the oil tanker Nave Andromeda is lit up by police boats as the SBS stormed the tanker this evening)+15

It was originally suggested that the tanker had been hijacked, but lawyers representing the owners of the vessel, which had come from Nigeria, today told the BBC the incident was ‘100 per cent not a hijacking’ (pictured: The stern of the oil tanker Nave Andromeda is lit up by police boats as the SBS stormed the tanker this evening) 

Seven suspects have been detained aboard an oil tanker off the Isle of Wight following reports that say 'Nigerian stowaways' aboard the vessel were violent towards the crew, reports say+15

Seven suspects have been detained aboard an oil tanker off the Isle of Wight following reports that say ‘Nigerian stowaways’ aboard the vessel were violent towards the crew, reports sayOfficers and coastguard crews were called after a group of stowaways were reportedly discovered on a Liberian-registered ship as it made its way to Southampton+15

Officers and coastguard crews were called after a group of stowaways were reportedly discovered on a Liberian-registered ship as it made its way to Southampton

It was originally suggested that the tanker had been hijacked, but lawyers representing the owners of the vessel, which had come from Nigeria, today told the BBC the incident was ‘100 per cent not a hijacking’.

The Special Boat Service aircraft used in today’s operation

Two Royal Navy Merlin helicopters and two Wildcat helicopters were reportedly used during the operation today, which saw 16 SBS personnel board the Nave Andromeda crude oil tanker via air and sea.

Merlin Mk2 

Two Merlin Mk2 helicopters, which supply the UK’s Maritime Force Protection, were mobilised.

The model is designed for round-the-clock maritime patrol, interdiction, troop ferrying, casualty evacuation, medium lift under-slung loads, Search and Rescue, and other contingency tasks. 

A minimum of five crew man the aircraft.

It is armed with Sting-Ray Torpedoes, Mk11 Depth Charges (for targeting submarines) and the M3m .50 Calibre Machine Gun.

The main base for both training and front-line of the aircraft is at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall. 

The Royal Navy has 30 Mk2 helicopters, costing £2.4m. 

Wildcat HMA Mk2 

Top speed: 157 knots 

Two Wildcat helicopters were used during the mission, a multi-role ship-borne helicopter that specifically operates from the frigates and destroyers of the Royal Navy. 

The maritime attack helicopter can be flown in extreme conditions all year round.

The Wildcat HMA Mk2 is used in anti-surface warfare, force protection and counter-piracy as well as carrying out an anti-submarine role.   

The Wildcat Maritime Attack Helicopter can carry Sting Ray torpedoes, a door-mounted 0.5″ heavy machine gun, and light and heavy variants of the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon Missiles. 

A source close to the shipping company said that crew had been aware of stowaways on board for some time, but that they had turned violent when the crew tried to lock them in the cabin as the vessel approached Britain. 

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

Stowaways on board Nave Andromeda made ‘verbal threats towards crew’ but no-one has been reported injured, according to Hampshire Police.

The crude oil tanker was currently to the south of Bembridge. Two coastguard helicopters were scrambled to the scene and were spotted circling the ship on Sunday afternoon, while an exclusion zone of five nautical miles was set up in the area south of Sandown. 

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ‘In response to a police request, the Defence Secretary and Home Secretary authorised Armed Forces personnel to board a ship in the English Channel to safeguard life and secure a ship that was subject to suspected hijacking.

‘Armed forces have gained control of the ship and seven individuals have been detained. Police investigations will now continue. Initial reports confirm the crew are safe and well.’   

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: ‘Tonight we are thankful for the quick and decisive action of our police and armed forces who were able to bring this situation under control, guaranteeing the safety of all those on board.’

Maritime Risk Expert Christopher Parry told Sky News: ‘This sort of thing is the sort of thing the SBS trained to do. Ever since we had oil rigs in the North Sea this sort of operation has been the bread and butter to the Special Boat Service and specialist commandos.

‘We want to send out a message – don’t mess with us. Don’t try and come into our maritime zone and expect to stowaway, or indeed come in for any other reason, you will be met with appropriate force if necessary.’

A source on the Isle of Wight claimed during a mayday call this morning the captain told an operator ‘I’m trying to keep them calm but please send help.’

The source said: ‘The captain clearly stated he feared for their lives and needed urgent assistance, they needed rescuing… It was desperation, you could hear the fear in his voice.’ 

A Hampshire police spokesman said: ‘At 10.04am today (25 October) concerns were raised to police for the welfare of crew on board the vessel, which was situated approximately six miles off the coast of Bembridge.

‘The vessel had been travelling in the direction of Southampton, having sailed from Lagos in Nigeria.

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

‘Following a multi-agency response by police, with support from the military and other emergency service partners, seven people were detained by police.

‘All 22 crew members are safe and well.

‘Police are investigating this incident and we have a number of enquiries to carry out to establish the full circumstances.’

Reports indicated that seven stowaways may have boarded in Nigeria, though this remains unconfirmed. 

One coastguard helicopter could be seen circling the tanker, as viewed on Plane Finder, while the 748-foot vessel has made a number of zig-zags in the area, according to Marine Traffic. 

A Hampshire Police spokesman had earlier said: ‘We are aware and dealing with an ongoing incident on board a vessel which is situated south of the Isle of Wight.

‘We will provide you with further updates when we are in a position to do so.’ 

A spokeswoman for Associated British Ports (ABP), which runs Southampton port, said they had not had any contact with the vessel and they had no further comment.+15

The vessel was due to be heading to Southampton this morning (pictured left). A more zoomed in version (right) shows how the ship made a number of zig-zag movements

Crew members had reportedly been sheltering on the ship, named the Nave Andromeda - a crude oil tanker which is currently south of Bembridge, according to Isle of Wight Radio+15

Crew members had reportedly been sheltering on the ship, named the Nave Andromeda – a crude oil tanker which is currently south of Bembridge, according to Isle of Wight Radio

The Coastguard said: ‘We are currently assisting Hampshire Constabulary with an incident on board a vessel situated off the Isle of Wight.

‘The search and rescue helicopters from Lee on Solent and Lydd are in attendance.’

The incident will likely lead to involvement from the Royal Navy and the Special Boat Service. 

The Nave Andromeda was built in 2011 and weighs 42,338 tonnes. It was last known to be docked in Lagos, Nigeria on October 6. Though the ship is registered in Liberia, it is understood the ship is Greek-owned. 

Speaking about the incident to Sky News today, Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, Bob Seely, said marine counter-terrorism forces will likely be called in, while a COBR meeting is likely to be held, or has been already.

He said: ‘Despite being told not to drop anchor, the skipper has dropped anchor and the ship may be now under the control of stowaways on the ship.

‘They will be looking at the ship’s registration, who’s on it, what it is carrying, how many stowaways there are, can they get in contact with the crew if they can’t get in contact with the skipper.’ 

He said authorities are also likely to be planning how to get onto the ship. 

Meanwhile, Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith said the incident was ‘shocking’. A police officer observes Nave Andromeda, which is anchored off the east coast of the island following reports of the vessel being seized by hijackers earleir today+15

  •  

A police officer observes Nave Andromeda, which is anchored off the east coast of the island following reports of the vessel being seized by hijackers earleir todayA restriction zone of five nautical miles is now in place around the vessel, while a coastguard helicopter is also circling the ship, according to Sky News+15

  •  

A restriction zone of five nautical miles is now in place around the vessel, while a coastguard helicopter is also circling the ship, according to Sky News

A Police officer on the Isle of Wight keeps watch on a crude oil tanker called the Nave Andromeda off Isle of Wight coast after a ‘security incident’ was reportedThe Nave Andromeda was built in 2011 and weighs 42,338 tonnes. It was last known to be docked in Lagos, Nigeria on October 6. Though the ship is registered in Liberia, it is understood the ship is Greek-owned (pictured: The ship off the Isle of Wight coast)+15

The Nave Andromeda was built in 2011 and weighs 42,338 tonnes. It was last known to be docked in Lagos, Nigeria on October 6. Though the ship is registered in Liberia, it is understood the ship is Greek-owned (pictured: The ship off the Isle of Wight coast) 

The Conservative MP told the Daily Echo: ‘I know our emergency services will be handling this in the professional way they always do and my thoughts are with those crew members who are on the ship.

‘I hope this situation is brought to a safe and successful conclusion as quickly as possible.’

Mick Cash, general secretary of the maritime union RMT, urged the government to do ‘all it can to prevent harm coming to crew or anyone else’.

He said: ‘This is a troubling incident which must not escalate to further jeopardise crew welfare or maritime safety in what is an extremely busy area for merchant shipping.

‘We must call on all parties, including the Greek shipowner to take action to resolve this incident safely and quickly.’

A UK Chamber of Shipping spokesperson said: ‘We are aware of an incident onboard the Nave Andromeda off the Isle of Wight and are in contact with the relevant authorities.

‘We believe it is likely to be related to stowaways onboard but are awaiting more information.’

The incident comes after an incident in which a group of stowaway ran amok on a cargo ship in the Thames Estuary in December 2018.

The men, from Nigeria and Liberia, waved metal poles and threw faeces and urine after being found hiding on the vessel, which was bound for Tilbury docks in Essex. 

The group demanded to be dropped off in Britain. They were arrested and jailed in January for affray offences following a trial at the Old Bailey in January. 

Today’s incident is near to the location where the 52,000 ton cargo ship the Hoegh Osaka was deliberately grounded to prevent it from capsizing after it began listing as it left port.

The vessel, which was carrying 1,400 cars, including Rolls Royces and Bentleys, became grounded on Bramble Bank in the Solent in January 2015, forcing emergency services to rescue all 25 crew members on board. 

Advertize With Us

See Also:

Update: Increased testing, community transmission drives COVID-19 to 20,919 with 675 new cases

Global Upfront

Diplomatic Row: Nigeria summons Ghanaian top diplomat in Abuja over demolition of Nigerian High Commission buildings in Accra

Global Upfront

Navy Seaman Cries Out, alleges maltreatment, torture by Naval Chief

Global Upfront

Press Briefing: General Update on Armed Forces of Nigeria Operations From 5th to 11th November 2020

Global Upfront

Pope names 13 new Cardinals, including first Black U.S. prelate

Global Upfront

Oyedepo backs EndSARS, warns against shooting protesters

Global Upfront

COVID 19 and the Growing Rate of Racism in America

Global Upfront

Odd as Governor Ikpeazu, who once said COVID-19 won’t afflict Abia State because of God’s promise, gets infected

Global Upfront

‘He just says it as it is’: Why many Nigerians support Donald Trump

Global Upfront

Gov Diri appeals Tribunal judgement removing him, to remain in office until Supreme Court affirms

Global Upfront

This website uses Cookies to improve User experience. We assume this is OK...If not, please opt-out! Accept Read More