A team of 40 UK special forces personnel has successfully regained control of an oil tanker in the English Channel off the Isle of Wight and arrested seven suspects who had threatened to hijack the vessel, the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has confirmed.
The special forces troops, which included a boarding party of 16 operators from the Royal Marines’ Special Boat Service (SBS), were ordered to retake the Liberian-flagged LR tanker Nave Andromeda after its crew sent out a distress call at around 09:00 local time on Sunday, October 25.
The operation to retake the tanker was launched on Sunday evening after local police formally requested for military intervention to help bring an end to the 10-hour stand-off. The SBS deployed to the area immediately after the operation received official approval from both the MOD and the Home Office.
During the subsequent operation, some of the SBS troops fast-roped onto the tanker from hovering helicopters while the remainder of the raiding force climbed up the side of the massive ship from rigid inflatable boats (RIBs). The raid lasted only seven minutes from the time the ship was boarded by the SBS to when all seven suspects were finally apprehended.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) had also deployed vessels to provide standby safety support at the scene following a request by the MOD.
The suspects, all of whom have been identified as Nigerian nationals, were stowaways who had been discovered by the crew as the tanker was nearing Southampton after having earlier departed Lagos on October 6.
After being discovered, the stowaways threatened to hijack the ship, forcing the 22 crew to retreat to the relative safety of the citadel.
It was from the citadel that Nave Andromeda‘s captain made radio contact with UK authorities, advising them of the ship’s interior layout and the suspects’ disposition to help the SBS find their way inside and bring about a successful resolution to the crisis.
The MOD added that no injuries have been reported among the tanker’s crew despite the suspects’ threats that they will resort to violence if their demands were not met.
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