Nave Andromeda oil tanker off the coast of the Isle of Wight 251020 CREDIT PA
Special forces

Isle Of Wight Tanker: Seven Arrested After SBS Storms Vessel

Five military helicopters, believed to include two Merlin Mk 4s, two Wildcats and a Chinook, were also involved in the operation.

Nave Andromeda oil tanker off the coast of the Isle of Wight 251020 CREDIT PA

Seven people have been arrested following a suspected hijacking of an oil tanker off the Isle of Wight, which led to British special forces storming the vessel.

The raid was carried out by personnel from the Special Boat Service (SBS).

Around 16 members of the SBS were involved in the operation, supported by airborne snipers, who secured the vessel in around nine minutes, according to the PA news agency.

The seven men have been arrested on suspicion of seizing or exercising control of a ship by use of threats or force, and all remain in police custody.

Boris Johnson has thanked the military for its "fantastic" response to the incident.

The SBS is the elite maritime counter-terrorism unit of the Royal Navy, with most of its personnel Royal Marine Commandos, whose operations are highly classified and not officially confirmed.

The operation was authorised by the Defence Secretary and Home Secretary on Sunday night after a 10-hour stand-off.

Hampshire Police said the force was alerted to concerns over the welfare of the crew of the 228-metre long Nave Andromeda soon after 10am on Sunday as the ship headed towards Southampton, having set sail from Lagos in Nigeria.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) said on Sunday: "In response to a police request, the Defence Secretary and Home Secretary authorised Armed Forces personnel to board a ship in the English Channel to safeguard life and secure a ship that was subject to suspected hijacking.

Watch: Boris Johnson thanks the military for their role in the response.

"Armed Forces have gained control of the ship and seven individuals have been detained.

"Police investigations will now continue. Initial reports confirm the crew are safe and well."

Hampshire Police later said all 22 crew members of the tanker were safe.

Five military helicopters, believed to be two Merlin Mk 4s, two Wildcats and a Chinook, were also involved, taking 40 personnel to the scene of the suspected hijacking.

Prior to the military action, Hampshire Police said the vessel had been located around six miles off the coast of Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, adding: "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 was placed around the vessel, with two coastguard helicopters spotted circling the ship in the afternoon.

The Nave Andromeda docked next to Queen Elizabeth II Cruise Terminal in Southampton after seven people were detained by British forces following suspected hijacking 261020 CREDIT PA
The Nave Andromeda pictured docked next to the Queen Elizabeth II Cruise Terminal in Southampton, following the operation by British forces (Picture: PA).

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "I commend the hard work of the Armed Forces and police to protect lives and secure the ship.

"In dark skies, and worsening weather, we should all be grateful for our brave personnel. People are safe tonight thanks to their efforts."

According to maritime tracking websites, the Nave Andromeda reached port in Southampton early on Monday morning.

Cover image: The Nave Andromeda in darkness off the Isle of Wight (Picture: PA).