British special forces raid oil tanker, capture stowaways who threatened violence

The Nave Andromeda oil tanker docked Monday in Southampton, England.
The Nave Andromeda oil tanker docked Monday in Southampton, England, after British naval forces seized control of the vessel.
(Andrew Matthews / Press Assn.)

All crew members of an oil tanker that was stormed by British naval special forces after a group of stowaways threatened violence are “safe and well,” the ship‘s operator confirmed Monday.

Seven people were detained in the raid, which unfolded in the English Channel after darkness fell Sunday.

Commandos from the Special Boat Service, the elite maritime counterterrorism unit of Britain’s Royal Navy, were lowered by rope from helicopters onto the Nave Andromeda, whose crew had locked themselves in a secure part of the ship known as the citadel. Within minutes, the seven stowaways, believed to be Nigerian asylum-seekers, were in custody.


Navios Tanker Management, which operates the Liberian-registered vessel, said the ship’s master became “concerned for the safety of the crew due to the increasingly hostile behavior of the stowaways.” It said in a statement that all crew members were “safe and well.”

Maritime tracking websites showed the ship reached port in Southampton, on England’s south coast, early Monday.

The ship had left Lagos, Nigeria, on Oct. 6 and had been due to dock in Southampton on Sunday morning. The raid followed a 10-hour standoff as the tanker circled an area a few miles southeast of the Isle of Wight, south of Southampton.

The coast guard dispatched helicopters to the scene, and authorities imposed a three-mile exclusion zone around the vessel. Suspecting a hijacking, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel authorized military action, the government said.

“I commend the hard work of the armed forces and police to protect lives and secure the ship,″ Wallace said. “In dark skies and worsening weather, we should all be grateful for our brave personnel.″