Seven men have been arrested on suspicion of ‘seizing or exercising control’ of a ship after an ‘attempted hijacking’ of an oil tanker yesterday.

Hampshire Police say the seven have been detained in connection with a ten hour stand-off on the ‘Nave Andromeda’ off the coast of the Isle of Wight.

The Special Boat Services stormed the ship after the captain issued a may day call as the vessel approached Southampton Port.

It’s thought some of the stowaways may have became aggressive to crew members as the vessel neared land.

The men, believed to be Nigerian, may have ‘illegally boarded’ the Liberian-flagged tanker as it prepared to leave Lagos for the journey to the UK.

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Hampshire Police said the force was alerted to concerns about the welfare of the crew of the 748ft (228m) oil tanker soon after 10am on Sunday.

A force spokesman said: ‘The seven men have been arrested on suspicion of seizing or exercising control of a ship by use of threats or force under Sections 9(1) and (3) of the Aviation and Maritime and Security Act 1990. They all remain in custody at police stations across Hampshire.

‘All 22 crew members are safe and well and the vessel is now alongside in the port of Southampton. Investigators are speaking to the crew members to establish the exact circumstances of what happened.’

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel authorised the raid on Sunday night. It took the special forces nine minutes to secure the tanker, backed by airborne snipers.

Four military helicopters took 40 personnel to the scene of the suspected hijack and about 16 members of the SBS boarded the vessel.

After the situation was diffused, the oil tanker was left anchored overnight and then made the short trip into Southampton port at around 10.30am this morning.

The ship’s operator, Navios Tanker Management, said in a statement: ‘The UK authorities had been advised by the master 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.

‘Happily no crew members were injured and all are safe and well. Navios Tanker Management wish to thank all the UK authorities involved in this operation for their timely and professional response.

‘Navios would also like to pay tribute to the master of the Nave Andromeda for his exemplary response and calmness and to all the crew for their fortitude in a difficult situation.’

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.

When stowaways ran amok on a cargo ship in the Thames Estuary in December 2018, the ship’s operator said they were detained after SBS personnel were airlifted on to the vessel.

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