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UK special forces raid suspected hijacked ship in English channel, detain 7

U.K. Royal Navy Merlin Mk II helicopter. (U.K. Royal Navy photo/released).
October 26, 2020

The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence announced Sunday night that its special forces had raided a suspected hijacked oil tanker ship and detained seven individuals.

The Ministry of Defence tweeted, “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,” the Ministry of Defence statement continued.

The Guardian reported members of the U.K. Royal Navy’s Special Boat Service, based out of Dorset, used two Merlin helicopters and two Wildcat helicopters to board the ship and carry out the raid.

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The ship, a Liberian-registered vessel known as the Nave Andromeda, was expected to arrive in port in Southampton on Sunday to pick up a shipment but the ship was delayed and reportedly began making erratic movements near the Isle of Wight. Marine Traffic, a website that tracks the movements of commercial ships, showed the Nave Andromeda making a series of back and forth movements near the Isle of Wight for several hours before making its way for port in Southampton.

According to The Guardian, reports indicated a number of stowaways on board the ship.

Police in Hampshire said, “At 10:04 a.m. today concerns were raised to police for the welfare of crew onboard the vessel, which was situated approximately six miles off the coast of Bembridge. The vessel had been travelling in the direction of Southampton, having sailed from Lagos in Nigeria. It was reported that a number of stowaways were onboard, and they had made threats towards the crew. Following a multi-agency response by police, with support from the military and other emergency service partners, seven people were detained by police.”

The ship’s operator, Navios Tankers Management told The Guardian the stowaways “illegally boarded” the Liberian-flagged tanker in Lagos.

The master of the ship reportedly released a statement he had been “concerned for the safety of the crew due to the increasingly hostile behaviour of the stowaways.”

All 22 of the ship’s crew members were reported safe by Hampshire police.