The captain of the Nave Andromeda put out a ‘desperate’ call for rescue because he ‘feared for his life’, it was claimed today.
It was alleged that the stowaways smashed glass on board the huge oil tanker and even made threats to kill crew.
A source on the Isle of Wight claimed during a mayday call this morning the captain told an operator: “I’m trying to keep them calm but please send help.”
The source said: “The captain clearly stated he feared for their lives and needed urgent assistance, they needed rescuing.”
The source also said: “It was desperation, you could hear the fear in his voice.”
It is not known what the situation is on board Nave Andromeda this evening. Hampshire Police have requested military assitance.
According to the BBC, lawyers representing the vessel’s owners have said the incident is not a hijacking.
An expert today said it would have been ‘relatively easy’ for the stowaways to slip through security at Nigeria, where it is believed they boarded.
Maritime expert David Osler said ‘port security in third world ports is not as high as in the first world’.
Mr Osler, finance editor at Lloyd’s List, also said ‘it’s starting to look more like an altercation’.
He said: “International Maritime Organisation guidelines mandate search of vessels prior to departure, but sometimes stowaways slip through.
“Generally, port security in third world ports is not as high as in the first world, so it is relatively easy to get through perimeter fences.”
He added: “The vessel had made two stops en route via the Canary Islands Las Palmas anchorage and a brief period waiting off the French coast just south of Sant Nazaire five days ago.
“Officials have not confirmed the point at which the stowaways joined the vessel, however flag officials are working on the assumption that they boarded in Nigeria though the rudder trunk of the vessel.
“So [they are] not 100 per cent definitely Nigerians, but likely.
“It’s impossible to speculate on motives at this stage. Nigerian pirates frequently capture vessels in Gulf of Guinea, either to steal cargo or hold crew for ransom.
“But to the best of my knowledge, there are no known examples of Nigerian pirates operating outside the Gulf of Guinea.
“It’s starting to look more like an altercation between the stowaways and the crew. But until there’s firm information on that, that’s guesswork on my part.”
Mr Osler also said: “If you’re going to hijack for ransom, you need somewhere to park the ship. The Niger Delta is fine for that, [it has] lots of isolated creeks. The Solent, not so much.”
A statement from Hampshire Police said: “At 10.04am today (25 October) concerns were raised to police for the welfare of crew on board the Nave Andromeda – a vessel situated approximately six miles off the coast of Bembridge, Isle of Wight.
“The vessel had been travelling in the direction of Southampton.
“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 currently working closely with our partners, including the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and Border Force, to bring this incident to a safe conclusion.