Members of UK maritime special forces unit the Special Boat Service (SBS) yesterday stormed a tanker ship off the coast of the Isle of Wight ending a stand-off between the ship’s crew and stowaways.
The SBS – the special forces wing of the Royal Navy – regained control of the vessel, Nave Andromeda. Officials have released little further information due to a UK policy on discussing special forces operations.
In an operation that lasted nine minutes, SBS personnel boarded the ship via Merlin and Wildcat helicopters before then proceeding to detain stowaways who reportedly boarded the ship in Lagos.
The raid occurred off the coast of the Isle of Wight, not far from the SBS home base at nearby Poole, following a request from Hampshire police for military assistance in resolving the situation on board the ship.
The Times reported that four helicopters and 40 military personnel took part in the raid, during which Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond was stationed nearby.
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) wrote on Twitter: “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.”
Commenting on the operation, Defence Secretary Ben 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.”
In 2018, the SBS undertook a similar operation to regain control of a ship hijacked by stowaways on the Thames Estuary.
The First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin added: “Bravo Zulu [Well done] to the remarkable Armed Forces personnel involved. And also to their families, who support their loved ones while they remain ready at extraordinarily short notice to respond to such events.”
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.”
During the stand-off, the tanker’s crew locked themselves in a secure room maintaining control of the vessel at all times.
In a statement carried by Reuters, the operator of the ship Navios Tanker Management said: “The UK authorities had been advised by the Master that stowaways had been found on board and that he was concerned for the safety of the crew due to the increasingly hostile behaviour of the stowaways.”