BY EMEKA EJERE
Seven suspected Nigerians have been arrested in the United Kingdom over alleged attempt to seize control of an oil ship, Nave Andromeda.
According to the BBC, the stowaways believed to have boarded the Southampton-bound ship in Lagos on October 5, 2020 in search of asylum, had become violent as the ship approached the Isle of Wight on October 25.
Hampshire Constabulary said the seven men were being held on suspicion of “seizing or exercising control of a ship by use of threats or force under Sections 9(1) and (3) of the Aviation and Maritime and Security Act 1990”.
“All 22 crew members are safe and well and the vessel is now alongside in the port of Southampton.”
The men were detained when military forces stormed the ship which was thought to have been hijacked off the Isle of Wight on Sunday night.
Sixteen members of the Special Boat Service ended a 10-hour stand-off which started when stowaways on board the ship reportedly became violent.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said there had been a “threat to life”.
Investigators are now speaking to the ship’s crew to establish what happened.
Wallace said, “What was emerging was a clear threat to life on the ship and at that point, the police made representation to the Ministry of Defence that they didn’t have the capability to do what was needed in these challenging circumstances.
“We were under the awareness that the suspects were also threatening to do something with the ship. If they were threatening to take control of the ship then, of course, that is a hijack and the threat to the environment and, more importantly, to the lives of people on the ship is something the state can’t tolerate.”
The BBC said British forces descended on to the vessel by rope from four Royal Navy helicopters after nightfall.
Former Royal Navy officer, Rear Adm. Chris Parry, said the operation to take control of the ship was over in “less than nine minutes.”
He said, “From the time the helicopters went in and the SBS roped on to the ship, they rounded up the people pretty quickly.
“I think the stowaways themselves accepted this was probably the end of the journey for them and there probably wasn’t any point in resisting heavily armed men approaching them.”
Navios Tanker Management, operator of the crude oil tanker, said the master of the Liberian-registered vessel became concerned for the safety of the crew “due to the increasingly hostile behaviour of the stowaways” who had “illegally boarded” in Lagos.