British Special Forces stormed a Greek-operated oil tanker in the English channel on Sunday to wrestle control of the vessel from seven stowaways who had threatened the crew in a suspected hijacking.
Troops from the Special Boat Service, a navy special forces unit whose headquarters is just a few miles away from where the vessel began showing signs of distress, boarded the Nave Andromeda near the Isle of Wight off southern England.
Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, and Home Secretary, Priti Patel, authorised the armed forces to board the ship “to safeguard life and secure a ship that was subject to suspected hijacking,” the Defence Ministry said.
“Armed forces have gained control of the ship and seven individuals have been detained,” the ministry said. “Initial reports confirm the crew are safe and well.”
It was not immediately clear where the stowaways were from or what their intentions were.
The tanker’s Greek operator, Navios Tank Management, thanked UK authorities for their swift reaction to the hijacking situation.
“Navios Tanker Management wish to thank all the UK authorities involved in this operation for their timely and professional response,” the operator said in a statement.
The defence ministry declined to confirm or deny the involvement of the SBS – in line with British government policy of not commenting on special forces operations.
The navy’s Special Boat Service, considered a sister unit to the Special Air Service Regiment (SAS), is one of Britain’s most secretive special forces units.
An elite maritime counter-terrorism unit, the SBS traces its history back to World War Two and has been involved in many of the conflicts of the past 70 years including Afghanistan and Iraq.