British authorities have dropped the charges against seven Nigerian stowaways that were accused of endangering a product tanker after a confrontation with the crew. The vessel was later boarded by British special forces in response to the crew’s calls for help.
Announcing the decision to drop the case, the prosecutors said, “Our case was that the actions of the men were responsible for the endangerment of the vessel, but further material was then supplied by a maritime expert which significantly undermined whether there was a threat of danger.”
The 75,000 dwt Liberian flagged Nave Andromeda was underway from Lagos to Southampton with a cargo of crude oil and as it neared the Isle of Wight, the crew reported that the seven stowaways, which they knew were aboard, suddenly became hostile.
The crew retreated to the vessel’s citadel as a precautionary measure while calling for assistance. The Hampshire Police, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and the Royal Navy responded to the incident.
That evening in a spectacular raid with four helicopters and the frigate HMS Richmond, a 16-member Special Boat Service boarding team boarded the tanker and detained the suspects.
The raid, which had been authorized by Britain’s Defense and Home secretaries as a suspected hijacking, drew worldwide attention. The Crown Prosecution Service later reported after investigating that there was a “real and imminent threat” to the vessel.
Two of the suspects were charged with conduct endangering ships while the five other stowaways were also arrested on suspicion of seizing or exercising control of a ship by use of threats or force.
The prosecutors said that they have reviewed the incident in more detail. They said that video from a mobile phone and further evidence “could not show that the ship or crew were threatened.”
After the incident, the tanker had safely docked in Southampton.
The seven individuals remain in British custody under immigration charges.
Source: Maritime Executive