Everything you need to know about the ‘hijacked’ Isle of Wight tanker
Seven ‘stowaways’ detained after nine-minute operations ends ten-hour stand-off
Seven people have been detained after special forces commandos stormed a tanker off the Isle of Wight following a suspected hijacking by stowaways.
The nine-minute operation, by members of the Special Boat Service (SBS), ended a ten-hour stand-off that reportedly began when stowaways on board the Liberian-registered Nave Andromeda became violent.
Navios Tanker Management, operator of the crude oil tanker, said the master of the vessel became concerned about the “increasingly hostile behaviour of the stowaways”, who had “illegally boarded” in Lagos, Nigeria, earlier this month.
Adhering to a maritime drill, the crew locked themselves inside the ship’s strong room, known as “the citadel”, before calling for assistance. According to the Daily Mail, the captain sent a “panicked” mayday message that read: “I’m trying to keep them calm but please send help.”
In response to what the Ministry of Defence has described as the “suspected hijacking”, a total of 16 SBS commandos boarded the vessel by either “fast-roping down from Merlin and Wildcat helicopters hovering above the deck of the tanker” or “rappelling up the side from inflatable ribs bobbing on the black waters below”, Sky News reports.
The stowaways, believed to be Nigerians seeking UK asylum, were handed over to Hampshire Police on Sunday evening. The ship later docked in Southampton, with all 22 crew members found safe.
The raid “was authorised by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel”, ITV News reports.
The SBS is Britain’s “elite military unit tasked with tackling terrorist and other localised, violent incidents at sea”, says The Guardian. “Its origins date back to the second world war, and the Ministry of Defence refuses to say how many fighters it comprises or give any detail of its operations.”