Special forces have this evening stormed an oil tanker off the Isle of Wight coast and taken seven stowaways who had been on board into custody.
The Nave Andromeda was due to dock in Southampton earlier – but ‘put out rescue call’ after stowaways ‘threatened to kill the crew’.
Now it appears the stand off is finally over following the “suspected hijacking”.
It is suggested 16 members of the Special Boat Service gained access to the vessel just before 7pm tonight.
The mission was a success and all seven stowaways on board were detained.
It is understood none of the crew on board – who were all locked in the ship’s citadel – have been hurt.
Four helicopters flew the Special Boat Service out from their headquarters in Poole, Dorset.
They performed the rescue and the all clear was given just after 7.30pm.
The captain of the ship put out a ‘desperate’ call for rescue because he ‘feared for his life’, it was claimed earlier today.
Seven individuals were detained after they were met with “overwhelming force”.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed: “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.
“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.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel authorised the operation in response to a police request.
The stowaways reportedly smashed glass on board the huge oil tanker and even made threats to kill crew, it was alleged.
The source said: “The captain clearly stated he feared for their lives and needed urgent assistance, they needed rescuing.”
Military assistance had been demanded after those illegally on board the Liberian-registered Andromeda became violent.
The source also said: “It was desperation, you could hear the fear in his voice.”
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.”
An expert earlier today suggested it would have been ‘relatively easy’ for the stowaways to slip through security at Nigeria, where it is believed they boarded.
Mrs Patel tweeted she was “thankful for the quick and decisive action of our police and armed forces who were able to bring this situation under control, guaranteeing the safety of all those on board”.
Police were said to be working alongside the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and Border Force in responding to the incident.
Richard Meade, managing editor of shipping news journal Lloyd’s List, earlier 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.”