UK military called in after stowaways found aboard tanker: reports

SOUTHAMPTON, England (Reuters) – British police requested military assistance to deal with stowaways aboard a Greek-operated oil tanker in the English Channel, British media reported on Sunday.

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Police said the crew of the Nave Andromeda had been subject to verbal threats from stowaways and that they were working with coastguard and border forces to resolve the incident.

ITV, the BBC and Sky News reported military assistance had been requested, without citing sources. The police said they could not confirm the report.

“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,” a police spokesman said in an emailed statement.

The police said concerns for the crew were raised at 1004 GMT and that a three-mile exclusion zone had been placed around the vessel, currently near the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England.

Earlier Sky News said seven stowaways had been found on board. The BBC cited lawyers for the ship’s owners as saying it was “100% not a hijacking”. The ship’s operators and owners could not immediately be reached by Reuters for comment.

Britain’s interior ministry, which is responsible for border control, did not have any immediate comment.

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The coastguard agency said search and rescue helicopters were attending but did not give details.

Refinitiv vessel tracking data showed the Liberia-flagged Nave Andromeda had been expected to arrive in the English port of Southampton at 1030 GMT on Sunday. The vessel had departed from Lagos, Nigeria, the data showed.

The Nave Andromeda’s registered owner is Folegandros Shipping Corp, and the vessel is managed by Greek shipping company Navios Tankers Management Inc., according to Refinitiv.

In December 2018, British forces stormed an Italian cargo ship and regained control after stowaways threatened crew as it sailed close to the southeast coast.

French police last month dismantled a migrant camp in the northern port of Calais, from where thousands of illegal economic migrants and would-be asylum seekers have sought to cross the English Channel to reach British shores.

Several thousand migrants have attempted the crossing this year, often paying people traffickers to help them traverse one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in overloaded rubber dinghies.

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