7 Nigerians Questioned After UK Forces Storm Tanker off Isle of Wight

October 27, 2020 Updated: October 27, 2020

Police are questioning seven Nigerian nationals following Sunday’s maritime security incident off the Isle of Wight, the Hampshire Constabulary has confirmed.

Officers have been granted more time by Southampton Magistrates Court to question the men, police said on Tuesday in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times.

Nave Andromeda
Nave Andromeda is seen in Portishead, United Kingdom, in a file photo. (Huw Gibby/via Reuters)

The seven suspects were arrested on Sunday evening after British military personnel seized control of the crude oil tanker “Nave Andromeda” near the Isle of Wight.

The seven men, who are all Nigerian nationals, were arrested on suspicion of seizing or exercising control of a ship by use of threats or force under the Aviation and Maritime and Security Act 1990, and will remain in custody until the evening of Oct. 28.

Under UK law, officers have 24 hours to question someone in custody. After the first 24 hours, the police can apply for 12 more hours with authorisation from a senior officer. After that, all applications must be applied via the courts and authorised by a judge. A maximum of 96 hours can be granted.

Nave Andromeda
Liberia-flagged oil tanker Nave Andromeda is seen at Southampton Docks on Oct. 26, 2020. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

The incident began on Sunday morning, when the master of the Liberia-flagged tanker informed the UK authorities that stowaways had been found on board and that he was concerned for the safety of the crew due to the increasingly hostile behaviour of the stowaways.

The seven stowaways had illegally boarded the tanker in Lagos, Nigeria, the tanker’s Greek operator, Navios Tanker Management, told The Epoch Times in an email.

Police received the call just after 10 a.m. and were told the stowaways had made verbal threats towards the crew, according to a police spokesman.

Police worked closely with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Border Force to put the situation under control. An exclusion zone with a three-mile radius was put in place near the vessel.

“Following a multi-agency response by police with support from the military and other emergency service partners, seven people were detained by police,” police said in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times.

All 22 crew members are safe and well and the vessel is now in the port of Southampton.

British military personnel were involved in the operation in response to a police request, after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel authorised the action, the Ministry of Defence 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.”

Navios Tanker Management, which operates the tanker, said on Monday it wished to “thank all the UK authorities involved in this operation for their timely and professional response.”