The UK military have seized control of an oil tanker that had been reportedly hijacked by a group of stowaways off the Isle of Wight, arresting all the suspects.
The Liberian-registered Nave Andromeda laid anchor in the English Channel after reporting it had seven stowaways on board who had become violent.
The Nave Andromeda left Lagos, Nigeria, on Oct. 6 and was expected to dock in Southampton, England, at 10.30 am Sunday, according to ship tracking website MarineTraffic.com.
However, it was about 10 am when the Hampshire Police received warnings that stowaways onboard the ship south of the island had made “verbal threats” to its crew.
The UK coast guard scrambled two helicopters to the scene, and authorities imposed a three-mile exclusion zone around the vessel.
The tanker had been circling an area about 5 miles southeast of Sandown on the Isle of Wight since about 10 am, tracking data shows.
Chris Parry, a retired Royal Navy rear admiral who is now a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, told The Associated Press he suspects the stowaways grew violent as the tanker neared port, and the crew retreated to a secure area known as "the citadel" to retain control of the vessel.
The captain probably wanted to avoid taking a fully loaded tanker into the heavily populated area near the Portsmouth navy base, where Britain's carriers are based, as long as this incident was going on, Parry said.
"You don't want this ship anywhere near with this sort of thing going on," he said. "And so the captain probably rather wisely and in consultation with his owners, went to anchor off the Isle of Wight."
The UK Ministry of Defense confirmed shortly after 8 pm that armed forces had boarded the vessel and detained seven people.
“In response to a police request, the defense secretary and home secretary authorized Armed Forces personnel to board a ship in the English Channel to safeguard life and secure a ship that was subject to suspected hijacking,” it said in a statement.
“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.”
Richard Meade, editor of the shipping intelligence website Lloyd's List, said the seven stowaways were believed to have boarded in Nigeria.
"They were discovered by the crew and while they were trying to detain them in a cabin they got violent," he told The Independent.
"Officials assume the stowaways boarded the vessel in Nigeria."