A "hijacked" oil tanker docked in Southampton this morning after being seized by special forces commands after violence broke out when the crew attempted to lock seven blind migrants in a cabin and threatened to report them.
The captain of Nave Andromeda called in a panic around 9am yesterday saying "I'm trying to keep her calm but please send help" after confronting the Nigerian men while his ship was sailing on the Isle of Wight.
He ordered the 22 crew members to go to the ship's citadel, an emergency room used in pirate attacks, and "clearly feared for their lives" after stowaways smashed glass and issued death threats, according to a source.
There was a ten-hour pause before 16 Special Boat Service commands, supported by airborne snipers, stormed the tanker made up of darkened Merlin helicopters and fast attack boats, before regaining control with "overwhelming force" in just nine minutes .
A frigate, presumably HMS Richmond, was also on standby but was not needed during the operation while the stowaways were being handed over to the Hampshire Police. Officials have not yet disclosed whether they were armed.
The Nave Andromeda, a Liberian flag tanker believed to have 42,000 tons of crude oil on board, docked in Southampton this morning. None of the 22 crew members were injured.
There were reports that the tanker had been hijacked, but lawyers representing the owners of the ship that had sailed from Lagos told the BBC the incident was "100 percent not a hijacking".
Former Royal Navy Rear Admiral Dr. Chris Parry, however, said the incident was a warning to the UK authorities, saying "next time they could be terrorists."
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The oil tanker Nave Andromeda docked next to the Queen Elizabeth II cruise terminal in Southampton, where it can be seen today
A crew member can be seen on the deck of the oil tanker Nave Andromeda after mooring at the cruise terminal in Southampton this morning
The Special Boat Service (SBS) robbed the tanker off the Isle of Wight last night after stowaways were found on board who threatened the crew. An officer is pictured on the boat today
Rear Admiral Dr. Chris Parry told Good Morning Britain today: “Next time it might not just be stowaways. It could be terrorists, it could be people smugglers or something.
“We have to approach this problem in a much more sophisticated way, we have to improve our intelligence. We need to ask more from shipping companies and also from other countries we do business with.
"We are in a whole era of mass migration, and I think this covers a lot of things that we probably don't want in our environment or in our country."
The Andromeda Nave, which started from Nigeria three weeks ago, was due to dock in Southampton at 10.30 a.m. yesterday. At around 9 a.m. off the southeast coast of the Isle of Wight, it sent a Mayday signal.
Fears of a Hollywood-style hijacking, as featured in films like Captain Phillips, were fueled by tracking data on the MarineTraffic website that appeared to see the tanker zigzagging and going in circles.
Two Merlin helicopters and two Wildcat surveillance planes, along with a Chinook, had been readied at RAF Odiham in Hampshire.
The SBS had been warned of a "perceived serious threat to the ship and possibly the crew".
The elite unit routinely trains for such missions and uses wildcats to fly ahead and create a distraction while Merlins hover over the stern, allowing troops to storm the ship. Troops in rapid attack boats use grab irons to get on board.
Richard Meade of Lloyd & # 39; s List Intelligence marine service said he learned from sources close to the ship's owners that the crew were trying to detain the stowaways in a cabin.
He said, “Seven stowaways were found aboard the ship. The crew tried to keep her in a cabin, but the stowaways did not want to be locked in a cabin and became violent, which set off the security alarm.
& # 39; The assumption the flag state is working on is that these stowaways came from Nigeria, where the destination for this ship began on October 6th, and the assumption is that they boarded through the ship's rudder trunk and have been hiding on the ship ever since. & # 39;
Mr Meade said the crew had contacted officials in Liberia, where the ship was registered, suggesting they still have control of the ship.
He said: "I got this information from the Liberian shipping register. So if the crew and skipper reported this level of detail … it indicates that they were able to be in communication and therefore in control. "
He said the working assumption is that the stowaways boarded the 228-meter-long, 32-meter-wide ship in Lagos that it took off on October 6, and that they were Nigerians.
A source close to the shipping company said the crew had been aware of stowaways on board for a day or two but became violent when the crew tried to lock them up in the cabin as the ship approached Britain.
The crew then retreated to the ship's safe citadel, where attackers cannot enter, the source added.
Stowaways aboard Nave Andromeda made "verbal threats to the crew" but no one has been reported injured, according to Hampshire Police.
Two Coast Guard helicopters were brought to the scene and sighted around the ship on Sunday afternoon while a five nautical mile exclusion zone was established in the area south of Sandown.
Interior Minister Priti Patel said yesterday evening: "Tonight we are grateful for the quick and decisive action of our police and armed forces who have managed to bring this situation under control and to ensure the safety of everyone on board."
Bob Sanguinetti, UK Chamber of Commerce General Manager, said: “I think this has all the hallmarks of a situation where a number of stowaways seek political asylum, presumably in the UK.
At some point they got aggressive.
“Obviously nobody knew then how aggressive they were, whether they were armed or not, what their motives were, because by then there will have been confusion.
& # 39; In the talks between the ship's captain and the British authorities – both the police and the military – they will at some point have decided that the least risky option was to board the ship with the special forces, as in the end turned out. & # 39;
The SBS is the Royal Navy's elite counter-terrorism maritime unit, with most of the Royal Marine Commandos staff members whose operations are highly rated and unofficial.
Crew members reportedly sought shelter in a safe room on the Liberia-registered oil tanker called Nave Andromeda, which was due to arrive in Southampton at 10:30 a.m.
The ship was due to sail to Southampton this morning (left picture). An enlarged version (right) shows the ship making a series of zigzag movements
The Nave Andromeda is a crude oil tanker that carries the Liberian flag. The tanker was spotted on a ziz zag trail near the Isle of Wight today
Dr. Chris Parry warned the world of "increasing numbers of these incidents," which was the second in the UK since 2018
Christopher Parry, an expert on maritime risks, told Sky News, “SBS trained something like that. Ever since we had oil rigs in the North Sea, this type of operation has been the bread and butter of the Special Boat Service and Special Operations Command.
“We want to send a message – don't mess with us. Do not try to get into our sea zone and expect to hide or some other reason to enter. You will be received with appropriate force if necessary. & # 39;
An Isle of Wight source said during a Mayday call this morning that the captain told an operator, "I'm trying to keep you calm, but please send help."
The source said: & # 39; The captain clearly stated that he was afraid for their lives and urgently needed help, they needed to be rescued … It was desperation, you could hear the fear in his voice. & # 39;
A Defense Department spokesman said: “At the request of the police, the Defense Minister and the Home Secretary authorized armed forces personnel to board a ship in the English Channel in order to save life and secure a ship suspected of being kidnapped.
The armed forces have taken control of the ship and seven people have been arrested. The police investigation is now continuing. Initial reports confirm that the crew is safe and sound. & # 39;
A Hampshire police spokesman said: “At 10:04 am today (October 25th) the police were raised concerns about the welfare of the crew on board the ship, which is located approximately six miles off the coast of Bembridge.
The ship had headed for Southampton after sailing from Lagos, Nigeria. It was reported that a number of stowaways were on board and threatened the crew.
Police arrested seven people after police responded to several authorities with the support of the military and other emergency services partners. All 22 crew members are safe and sound.
"The police are investigating this incident and we must conduct a series of investigations to determine the full circumstances."
The tanker was originally suspected to have been hijacked, but lawyers representing the owners of the ship that had come in from Nigeria told the BBC today that the incident was "100 percent not a hijack" (Photo: The stern of the oil tanker ) Nave Andromeda was lit by police boats when SBS stormed the tanker last night.
A police officer watches Nave Andromeda after she anchored off the island's east coast
The incident came after an incident in which a group of stowaways ran amok on a cargo ship in the Thames Estuary in December 2018.
The men from Nigeria and Liberia waved metal bars and threw feces and urine after hiding on the ship destined for Tilbury docks in Essex.
The group requested to be deposed in the UK. They were arrested and Detained in January on criminal charges following a January trial at the Old Bailey.
Today's incident takes place near where the 52,000-ton cargo ship Hoegh Osaka was purposely grounded to prevent it from capsizing after being listed on leaving port.
The ship, which carried 1,400 cars, including Rolls Royces and Bentleys, was stationed at Bramble Bank in Solent in January 2015, forcing emergency services to rescue all 25 crew members on board.
UK Shipping CEO Bob Sanguinetti said the stowaways likely boarded the ship before it left Nigeria, but it is not yet known when they were discovered by the crew.
"It could have been perfectly friendly for a few days with the crew taking care of the stowaways," he said.
"But as the ship approached the UK, the stowaways got a little more excited and aggressive, and then the captain would have felt that the ship's crew was threatened."
He added: "I think what is encouraging of all of this is that the UK has sent a very, very clear message that ships and seafarers must not be drawn into crises by asylum seekers or economic migrants."
The Nave Andromeda was built in 2011 and weighs 42,338 tons. It was last known to be docked in Lagos, Nigeria on October 6th. Although the ship is registered in Liberia, it is believed to be in Greek ownership (Image: The ship off the coast of the Isle of Wight).
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