The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has dropped charges against a group of seven stowaways who hijacked tanker Nave Andromeda in the English Channel in October 2020, prompting a special forces team to retake the vessel
Mobile phone video footage, witness accounts and the evidence of a maritime expert show that, according to the CPS, there was no danger and the action of the five men did not meet the legal test for an illegal act. The men remain detained under immigration regulations.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said, "It is frustrating there will be no prosecution in relation to this very serious incident and the British people will struggle to understand how this can be the case."
In October 2020, following reports of erratic navigation and threats to mariners on board, the Royal Navy’s Special Boats Service (SBS) detained the seven stowaways suspected of hijacking LR1 product tanker Nave Andromeda.
The regional police force in Hampshire, UK, and the UK Coastguard initially responded to reports of threats to mariners on board 2011-built, 75,000-dwt LR1 product tanker on Sunday, 25 October.
After the call went out for military assistance in the incident, the SBS took control of the vessel within 10 minutes.
"In response to a police request, the Defence Secretary and Home Secretary authorised Armed Forces personnel to board a ship in the English Channel to safeguard life and secure a ship that was subject to suspected hijacking," a statement from the Ministry of Defence said.
"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."
According to vessel tracking service VesselsValue, Nave Andromeda spent 20 days in Nigerian waters before sailing on 6 October 2020 for Southampton, UK.
Local maritime authorities received a mayday distress call from Nave Andromeda while it was close to the Isle of Wight and UK waters and ordered marine craft to obey a three-mile exclusion zone and a five-mile aircraft exclusion zone was also instituted.
When discovered, the stowaways were confined to a cabin by the crew but escaped and armed themselves with iron bars. The vessel was in the Thames Estuary at the time.
The incident ended when a Special Boat Service team fast-roped onto Grande Tema from helicopters and overpowered the stowaways. The stowaways were arrested by the local police force and charged under the Immigration Act.
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