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How special forces who train in and protect Pembrokeshire saved ‘hijacked’ oil tanker and 22 crew



A ROYAL NAVY special forces strike group, who are regularly seen training in and around Milford Haven, was scrambled this week to assist the skipper of an oil tanker which had been stormed by stowaways off the Isle of Wight.

In a dramatic series of events, which raises potential security issues for all UK ports including The Port of Milford Haven, the vessel, the Nave Andromeda, made radio distress calls on Sunday morning (Oct 25) after failing to dock as expected in Southampton on the south coast of England at 10:30 HRS.

By evening, the boat was stormed by commandos from service, who detained seven individuals after they were met with “overwhelming force”.

Luckily for the crew of the Nave Andromedea the Special Boat Service (SBS), who are based at Poole were only a few minutes helicopter flying time away from the stricken vessel. It’s rare that Britain’s special forces are deployed on home territory, which makes the raid all the more remarkable.

Thanks to the skill of the men, many of whom trained in Pembrokeshire, the 22 crew were declared uninjured.

Four choppers flew the Special Boat Service out from their headquarters in Poole, Dorset.

They performed the rescue and the all clear was given just after 7.30pm.

A spokesperson for Hampshire police said Monday that seven men were arrested “on suspicion of seizing or exercising control of a ship by use of threats or force.”

“They all remain in custody at police stations across Hampshire,” the statement added. “Investigators are speaking to the crew members to establish the exact circumstances of what happened.”

During the altercation several stowaways made verbal threats to the crew on board the tanker, Hampshire police said in an official statement to press.

The 750-foot (228-metre) vessel is registered in Liberia, according to the Press Association.

Royal Navy special forces training in Milford Haven

The tanker was south east of Wight when the incident occurred.

Two coast guard helicopters were sighted circling around the vessel on Sunday, and a three-mile exclusion zone was placed around the area south of Sandown on the island’s east coast.

The tanker is currently docked in Southampton while the police inquiry continues, The Heald understands.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed in a statement to The Pembrokeshire Herald: “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.

“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.”

Bob Sanguinetti, chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping said that the zig-zagging “could well have been a way of alerting the authorities.” The vessel would also have been in touch with authorities via radio, though, he added.

He said “the uncertainty here is over the motives of the stowaways and, like I said, it could be nothing more sinister than seeking political asylum.”

To rescue tanker crew SBS members descended from four helicopters


A recording reveals the dramatic moment the captain of the oil tanker that was stormed by stowaways’ maydays for help.

During the call on an open radio channel, the captain says he is trying to ‘keep them calm’ but some of the intruders were outside the ship’s bridge.

He said: “The stowaways go outside, I see four-person port side, midship, near to the manifold, and I have two of them starboard side on the bridge but cannot coming inside.
“I try to keep them calm but I need immediately, immediately agency assistance.”

In other radio messages, the captain is said to have claimed he ‘feared for his life’ as the drama unfolded off the coast of the Isle of Wight on Sunday morning.

The tanker is now docked in Southampton as the investigation continues


Naval insiders were relieved to have concluded the incident relatively quickly once the police asked for help. “This was happening pretty much in the Royal Navy’s backyard. I think they were keen to show they could put a stop to it,” a naval source said.

The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, and the home secretary, Priti Patel, authorised armed forces personnel to board the ship in the Channel in response to a police request, the MoD said.

Wallace said: “I commend the hard work of the armed forces and police to protect lives and secure the ship. In dark skies, and worsening weather, we should all be grateful for our brave personnel. People are safe tonight thanks to their efforts.”


Tobias Ellwood, the chairman of the Commons defence committee, said the boarding of the tanker by British armed forces was a “good outcome”. “Seven stowaways onboard taking over a ship or causing the ship not to be in full command would have triggered a multi-agency alarm and then well-rehearsed classified protocols were put into action,” he told the BBC.

“Initially, it didn’t look like this was terrorist-related nor involving WMD, but the erratic behaviour [of the ship] was concerning. The safety of the crew was important, as is indeed any unauthorised movement towards the coast. I am pleased to see that swift action has been taken.”


The ship’s operator, Navios Tankers Management, said the stowaways “illegally boarded” the Liberian-flagged tanker in Lagos.

A statement from the company said the master of the ship had become “concerned for the safety of the crew due to the increasingly hostile behaviour of the stowaways”.

The company thanked the UK authorities in the operation “for their timely and professional response”.

“Navios would also like to pay tribute to the master of the Nave Andromeda for his exemplary response and calmness and to all the crew for their fortitude in a difficult situation.”

The vessel left Lagos on 6 October. Lloyd’s List, the shipping newspaper, said it believed seven stowaways had boarded in Nigeria. Their presence had been discovered but they became violent when the crew attempted to lock them in a cabin.


The SBS has been protecting shipping in Milford Haven for some time. The nature of the cargo of oil and LNG gas means that tankers inevitably depart from the middle east.

Last year the special forces joined the US carrier strike group currently deployed in the Persian Gulf, near Iran, in order to counter potential Iranian attacks on UK ships heading for Milford Haven and other ports.

In 2017, UK intelligence reports indicated jihadis from ISIS could have got their hands-on limpet mines, which can be attached to the hulls of ships.

It is thought they could be attached to the hulls of tankers carrying millions of gallons of oil with the resulting explosion strong enough to destroy an entire port.

Protecting Milford Haven: A clipping from the Scotland on Sunday

And frogmen from the Special Boat Service (SBS) and Royal Navy divers have been given the task of preventing it, with training taking place locally.

As well as SBS training, Milford Haven has hosted other major naval exercises. One such example was in 2013 with an exercise called Cambrian Trader. The four-day mission was designed to train the Navy’s Maritime Trade Operations specialists and prepare them for deployment in support of the Royal Navy anywhere in the world.

Together with Dyfed Powys Police, the Port of Milford Haven and members of the Army Reserve, the exercise involved well over a hundred people, yet it was almost unseen by the public because so much of the activity is waterborne, or at the Port’s Headquarters.

Bill Hirst, the then Harbourmaster said at the time: “As the third largest Port in the UK safely handling 29% of Britain’s seaborne trade in oil and gas, Milford Haven provides a great base for those wanting to understand how a busy commercial port operates.

Opportunities to exercise with the Royal Navy are rare and therefore we are pleased that they have chosen Milford Haven and are keen to support them.”


Police and drugs advice service issue warning over ‘deadly batch’ of heroin



POLICE have asked the media to issue a warning over a batch of heroin.

The drug circulating in west Wales, first detected in Llanelli, is particularly dangerous, it has been confirmed.

“We are warning drug users to take extra care following reports of a particularly harmful batch of heroin circulating in the Llanelli area” said a Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson.

“We have reasons to believe some drugs being distributed and used in the Carmarthenshire area at present have been contaminated with other substances and could be extremely dangerous for anyone taking them.

“We would also appeal to drug users to seek medical attention immediately if they become unwell.

“Please share this information with anyone you believe could come into contact with these drugs.

”In an emergency or if you think someone’s life is at risk always dial 999.”

Earlier this week Barod, the drug and alcohol abuse service reported a dangerous and toxic heroin circulating in Pembroke Dock which a spokesperson described as being ‘potentially deadly’.

To comes as Public Health England issued a formal alert about the risks of heroin containing fentanyl or carfentanyl.

The warning reads: “There is significant evidence from a small number of post-mortem results of recent drug user deaths and from police seizures that some heroin may contain fentanyl or carfentanyl added by dealers.

“These are highly potent synthetic opioids and very small amounts can cause severe or even fatal toxicity.

“Those of you in contact with heroin users should be alert to the increased possibility of overdose arising from heroin cut with these synthetic opioids, be able to recognise possible symptoms of overdose and respond appropriately.”

The fentanyls are a group of synthetic opioids; some have legitimate uses while others are illicit drugs.

Fentanyl is about 100 times more potent than morphine and is a licensed medicine used to treat severe and terminal pain. Carfentanyl is 4,000 – 10,000 times more potent than morphine and principally used as an animal tranquilliser.

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Tenby’s famous walrus ‘Wally’ has been spotted again



TENBY’S most famous marine animal has been spotted again after fears she had been scared away.

Wally was spotted on Friday evening by the seaside town’s Lifeboat station.

Thought to be a two-year-old male, the walrus’s return comes after it was feared she had been disturbed by people flocking to catch a glimpse of her and “getting too close”

The animal has attracted hundreds of people to the seaside town now that the travel restrictions with Wales have been lifted to coincide with the Easter school holidays.

Wally was last seen on Monday, but  members of the public were warned it was in the animal’s “best interests” to be “left alone” as much as possible and they were urged to “avoid the temptation to get near and disturb” her.

A joint statement was issued by the RSPCA, Tenby harbour master Chris Salisbury, Welsh Marine Life Rescue, Tenby lifeboat coxswain Phil John, British Divers Marine Life Rescue, Natural Resources Wales and CSIP Marine Environmental Rescue said that they were concerned to hear that people had tried to get close by using personal watercraft or paddle and surfboards.

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Police plan to deter badly behaved youths from gathering in Tenby



POLICE in Tenby responded to community concerns over antisocial behaviour and groups of between 15-20 youths gathering and clashing over the Easter bank holiday weekend. They moved the youths on, seized alcohol from them and stopped matters escalating when there were clashes between the groups. And they have a clear message ahead of this weekend – there will be extra police patrols and presence in Tenby, including on the trains, so this type of behaviour won’t be tolerated.

Dyfed-Powys Police officers used powers under the Antisocial Behaviour Act to disperse groups of youngsters meeting to drink alcohol in and around Tenby, many of whom had travelled by train to the area to meet up.

Based on these scenes from last weekend, plans are in place as part of a joint operation with Pembrokeshire County Council licensing officers and British Transport Police, to address and prevent any further gatherings.

A Section 34 Order is in place covering Tenby, which allows officers to move people out of the area and prevent them from returning for up to 48 hours.

Sergeant Stuart Wheeler said: “Following last weekend we had some concern from the community of Tenby, due to antisocial behaviour related to the groups of youths from Pembroke, Pembroke Dock and Tenby, and subsequently those groups clashing. Alcohol consumption by these youngsters was a factor.

“Proactive action was taken, and we are keen to avoid a repeat of this behaviour this weekend, and have therefore put plans in place. Additional resources have been allocated, which will allow us to respond quickly and prevent matters from escalating.

“Tenby Neighbourhood Policing Team and response officers, will be carrying out high visibility patrols in the area, covering areas known to be popular with youngsters. Pembrokeshire County Council licensing officers will be assisting us in ensuring youngsters can’t buy alcohol in the area by visiting shops and reminding them of the laws around selling alcohol, and if they bring it with them it will be seized. And our colleagues in British Transport Police will be patrolling the train network to prevent problematic groups getting to Tenby by train.”

Police are also appealing to parents and carers to know where their children are, and what they are doing.

Sergeant Wheeler added: “We would like to appeal directly to parents to be aware of where their children are, and prevent them from gathering in large groups. This type of behaviour is distressing for people living and working in Tenby, and we are urging you to be accountable for your children’s actions.

“We understand that the past few months have been difficult, and that children want to see their friends, but remember that only 6 people from 2 households can meet outdoors still. Please do your best to ensure they are adhering to regulations that are in place for all our safety.”

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