Oil tanker Nave Andromeda is seen off the coast of the Isle of Wight, Britain, October 25, 2020 in this screen grab obtained from a social media video. Isle Of Wight Radio Via Facebook/via REUTERS
By Henry Nicholls SOUTHAMPTON, England, Oct 25 (Reuters) – British special forces boarded a Greek-operated oil tanker in the English channel on Sunday and detained seven suspected stowaways who had threatened the crew, Isle of Wight radio and police said.
Police requested military assistance and a three-mile exclusion zone had been placed around the vessel, the Nave Andromeda, currently near the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England.
“Isle of Wight Radio understands that seven suspects have been detained onboard the Nave Andromeda,” the station reported. “Special forces from Poole have been involved.”
The Special Boat Service, a naval special forces unit that works closely with the Special Air Service (SAS), is based in Poole in southern England.
A spokesman for the Defence Ministry declined to comment on the report.
It was not immediately clear where the suspected stowaways were from or what their intentions were.
Thousands of illegal economic migrants and would-be asylum seekers have sought to cross the English Channel from France to reach British shores this year, often paying people traffickers to help them traverse one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in overloaded rubber dinghies.
Police said the crew had been subject to threats from stowaways and that they were working with coastguard and border forces to resolve the situation.
“It was reported that a number of stowaways were on board, and they had made verbal threats towards the crew. No one has been reported injured,” a police spokesman said.
The coastguard agency said search and rescue helicopters were attending but did not give details.
Seven suspects have been detained on board the oil tanker Nave Andromeda off the Isle of Wight after an operation involving a number of helicopters and the Special Boat Service. https://t.co/pvpUtAnY9t
Refinitiv vessel tracking data showed the Liberia-flagged Nave Andromeda had been expected to arrive in the English port of Southampton at 1030 GMT on Sunday. The vessel had left from Lagos, Nigeria, the data showed.
The Nave Andromeda’s registered owner is Folegandros Shipping Corp, and the vessel is managed by Greek shipping company Navios Tankers Management Inc., according to Refinitiv.
In December 2018, British forces stormed an Italian cargo ship and regained control after stowaways threatened crew as it sailed close to the southeast coast. (Reporting by Henry Nicholls Additional reporting by William James, Guy Faulconbridge and Jonathan Saul Editing by Catherine Evans, Raissa Kasolowsky, Frances Kerry and Nick Macfie)
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