What happened on the oil tanker off the Isle of Wight coast?

1 month ago 5

AN oil tanker was on its way to Southampton when seven stowaways tried to take over the vessel which was off the coast of the Isle of Wight.

Special Boat Service commandos stormed the ship after the fugitives allegedly threatened to kill the captain and the crew.

The Nave Andromeda had been heading to Southampton from Nigeria when seven stowaways tried to take control of the ship

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The Nave Andromeda had been heading to Southampton from Nigeria when seven stowaways tried to take control of the shipCredit: Getty Images - Getty

What happened on the oil tanker off Isle of Wight coast?

Police boats and helicopters helped provide distractions as at least 16 SBS commandos took part in the swoop on the 42,000-tonne Nave Andromeda

Under the cover of darkness, they descended from blacked-out helicopters and approached the vessel in fast attack boats.

The troops were lowered on ropes from two Merlin choppers, while a pair of Wildcat helicopters circled above the tanker   providing close surveillance of the target.

Commandos in boats also used grappling irons to climb aboard the 230-metre vessel while witnesses reported seeing blue flashing lights from police boats at the scene.

A source said: “The police lights were a distraction.

“This was an SBS operation from start to finish.

The Nave Andromeda, seen here in 2014, had a crew of 22 people, including the captain

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The Nave Andromeda, seen here in 2014, had a crew of 22 people, including the captainCredit: AP:Associated Press

“Seizing ships is their bread and butter. They are happiest working in the dark.”

The special forces troops took just nine minutes to over-power the stowaways.

Last night the Ministry of Defence said initial reports confirmed that the crew — believed to number between 15 and 20 — were safe and well.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel authorised armed forces personnel to board the ship in response to a police request after cops raised concerns for the welfare of the crew.

Mr Wallace said: “I commend the hard work of the armed forces and police to protect lives and secure the ship.

“In dark skies, and worsening weather, we should all be grateful for our brave personnel. People are safe tonight thanks to their efforts.”

A coast guard helicopter circled the vessel yesterday afternoon

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A coast guard helicopter circled the vessel yesterday afternoon

The tanker had been due to dock in Southampton yesterday morning after a 19-day voyage from Africa. But a mayday was sent out at around 10am.

The captain of the Nave Andromeda feared for his and his crew’s lives after the stowaways are said to have smashed glass on board and grabbed flares as weapons.

They turned hostile when crew members tried to lock them in a cabin.

A source on the Isle of Wight claimed that during a Mayday call, 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. You could hear the fear in his voice.”

The tanker — operated by Greek firm Folegrandos — was seen zig-zagging before dropping anchor three miles of the Isle’s east coast and turning on its lights as darkness fell.

Lawyers representing the ship’s owners last night said the incident was “100 per cent not a hijacking”.

An emergency services vessel kept a close eye on events on board

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An emergency services vessel kept a close eye on events on boardCredit: London News Pictures

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel authorised armed forces personnel to board the ship in response to a police request after cops raised concerns for the welfare of the crew.

Mr Wallace said: “I commend the hard work of the armed forces and police to protect lives and secure the ship.

“In dark skies, and worsening weather, we should all be grateful for our brave personnel. People are safe tonight thanks to their efforts.”

Ms Patel  tweeted: “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.”

The identity of the stowaways has not yet been officially revealed but it is thought they are Nigerians

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The identity of the stowaways has not yet been officially revealed but it is thought they are NigeriansCredit: London News Pictures

Where did the ‘stowaways’ come from?

The stowaways were quickly detained and handed to Hampshire Police for questioning after the dramatic scenes unfolded.

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The stowaways were believed to have climbed aboard the Liberian-flagged tanker in Nigeria — 4,235 miles from the Isle of Wight, gaining access through an opening above the rudder.

On its journey, the tanker made stops in Las Palmas in the Canary Islands and then south of Saint-Nazaire, on the west coast of France.

It was last known to be docked in Lagos, Nigeria, on October 5, and was scheduled to arrive at Southampton at 10.30am today.

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