UK detains stowaways aboard tanker after confrontation with crew

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LONDON – British authorities have arrested seven stowaways on an oil tanker a few miles off the English coast, after crew members called for help and locked themselves in the ship’s safe room, the operator said of the ship.

The 240-foot Liberian-registered vessel called Nef Andromeda and operated by the Greek shipping company Navios Tankers Management, was en route from Lagos, Nigeria, to the Fawley Oil Refinery near Southampton, England.

Hampshire Police said earlier today they had set up a maritime exclusion zone, with a 3 mile radius, around the vessel, warning other vessels to stay away. Police said they worked closely with the UK Coast Guard and Coast Guard and border forces to “bring this incident to a close.” A person familiar with the matter said British special forces were involved in the operation. Earlier Sunday, the coast guard said search and rescue helicopters were at the scene. A spokesperson for the ship’s operator said after the incident, the ship was heading to port on Sunday evening.

The incident occurred about 6 miles off the Isle of Wight, in the middle of a busy body of water off the south coast of England. Stowaways, piracy, and hijacking of tankers and other vessels have all become relatively common along many of the world’s busiest oil routes, especially in parts of the Arabian Sea off the coast of the ‘West Africa and the Strait of Malacca near Singapore.

Such an impasse, however, is extremely rare in the occupied and heavily regulated waters of northern Europe. The UK has stepped up its maritime patrols in recent years as migrants and asylum seekers have taken to the high seas to cross from mainland Europe to Britain.

A spokesperson for the ship’s operator said the stowaways boarded the ship when the ship was in Lagos. As the ship neared Southampton, the captain alerted the British Coast Guard and the stowaways threatened the crew when they realized authorities had been notified, the spokesperson said.

The captain then ordered the crew to proceed to the ship’s citadel for their safety, the spokesperson said. Many ships are equipped with such secure rooms, from which the crew can seek protection from pirates or hijackers, but also continue to control the ship.

Write to Benoit Faucon at [email protected]

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