Special Boat Service Storms Ship, Arrests Stowaways

file photo
file photo

Published Dec 22, 2018 2:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

25 Royal Navy Marines from the Special Boat Service's X Squadron abseiled on to the Grande Tema from helicopters on Friday night and arrested the four stowaways that had threatened the crew.

No one was injured as they regained control of the 236-meter (774-foot) ro-ro container ship around midnight on Friday. The onboard operation lasted about 25 minutes and took place about 14 hours after the Service was called in to help.

The stowaways had demanded that the crew of the Grimaldi Lines vessel take them to the U.K coast. They have now been detained, and the vessel has sailed to the port of Tilbury.

The crew discovered the stowaways early this week as the Grande Tema made her way from Nigeria. The master had the unauthorized passengers locked away in a cabin, and the crew provided them with food during the journey. 

However, on Friday morning, the men, believed to be from Nigeria and Liberia, broke out of their cabin and threatened the crew with iron bars. The Grande Tema's 27 crew members locked themselves on the bridge in order to ensure their own security, and they had been circling in a holding pattern off Margate in the English Channel while waiting for authorities to intervene.

Essex Police oversaw the operation and said in a statement on Friday that it was a safety-related incident but not an act of piracy. The four men are being held under the Immigration Act.