Police have requested military assistance in responding to reports of stowaways threatening the crew on board a crude oil tanker off the Isle of Wight.
The PA news agency understands Hampshire Police made the request as it deals with the unfolding situation on board the 228-metre Nave Andromeda.
Concerns were raised with police over the welfare of the ship’s crew, shortly after 10am on Sunday, the force said.
Bob Sanguinetti, chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping, said on Sunday evening: “We understand the vessel has been boarded by security forces and made safe.
“We commend the swift action taken by UK personnel to secure the vessel and most importantly the safety crew.”
Police earlier said the vessel, located around six miles off the coast of Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, had been travelling in the direction of Southampton.
It added in a statement on Sunday evening: “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.
“An exclusion zone, with a three mile radius, is currently in place near the vessel.”
Police are working alongside the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and Border Force in responding to the incident.
John Thompson, co-founder of Ambrey, a maritime security firm advising the ship’s Greek owners on Sunday, told the Financial Times that the incident was “definitely not a hijacking”.
“It’s stowaways who have got a bit rowdy with the crew,” he told the the newspaper.
According to maritime tracking websites, the Nave Andromeda had sailed from Lagos, Nigeria, on October 5.
It is understood the tanker had been expected to dock in Southampton at 10.30am on Sunday and that the port received contact from the ship but it had not been refused entry to the harbour.
Two coastguard helicopters were scrambled to the scene and spotted circling the ship on Sunday afternoon.
The empty Panamax tanker NAVE ANDROMEDA (9580405) is being circled by a UK Search & Rescue helicopter after a purported hijacking attempt. The vessel has made three stops in anchorages between Lagos, Nigeria and the UK. #OOTT @MarineTraffic @GlobalDryad https://t.co/tNoXb8wo64 pic.twitter.com/cYWwsCo5fX
— TankerTrackers.com, Inc.⚓️🛢 (@TankerTrackers) October 25, 2020
Richard Meade, managing editor of shipping news journal Lloyd’s List, wrote on its website that he had received information that there were seven stowaways on board.
He said it was understood that the stowaways had been onboard since the ship left Nigeria, although it had also made anchorage stops in Las Palmas in the Canary Islands and south of Sant Nazaire, France.
Speaking to the PA news agency he said: “The information I have got is that it was a case of stowaways being discovered on board and when the crew tried to get them into a cabin and tried to get their information, there was no documentation.”
Mr Meade alleged: “They tried to get them into a cabin and that’s when the stowaways got violent – that doesn’t strike me as a hijacking, it’s a matter of stowaways.”
Mr Meade said the crew had been in contact with officials of the Liberian ship register suggesting they were still in control of the ship.
He said: “I have this information from the Liberian ship register so if the crew and the skipper have communicated this level of detail… that suggests that they are in a position to be in communication and therefore they are in control and this is not a serious incident.”
Here’s what we know about the security incident off the Isle of Wight involving the product tanker Nave Andromedahttps://t.co/7UEwaqKhEk
— Lloyd's List (@LloydsList) October 25, 2020
Mick Cash, general secretary of the maritime union RMT, earlier urged the Government “to do all it can to prevent any harm coming to crew or anyone else on the Nave Andromeda”.
He added: “This is a troubling incident which must not escalate to further jeopardise crew welfare or maritime safety in what is an extremely busy area for merchant shipping.
“We must call on all parties, including the Greek shipowner to take action to resolve this incident safely and quickly.”
A coastguard spokeswoman said it was assisting police, while the Home Office said it was aware of the incident.
A spokeswoman for Associated British Ports (ABP) said it had no comment on the incident.