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

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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

DISTRESS CALLS ON TAPE

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

IN OUR BACK YARD

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.”

A GOOD OUTCOME

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.”

SHIPS OWNER GRATEFUL

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.

PROTECTING MILFORD HAVEN

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.”

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Paul Sartori taking action to support climate with National Lottery grant of nearly £14,000

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LOCAL hospice at home charity, Paul Sartori Hospice at Home, is taking action to support the climate with the installation of solar panels at its main head office in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire.

The charity which delivers end of life care services across Pembrokeshire, has been awarded a grant to fund the purchase and installation of solar panels at Paul Sartori House, Winch Lane. This investment is part of an ongoing commitment to address the climate emergency and the charity joins many others who are taking action. Paul Sartori was one of 35 community groups, who were selected to take part in the Climate Action Boost scheme, funded by The National Lottery Community Fund.

Working alongside Renew Wales, a partner in the initiative, the group explored methods to help tackle the causes and consequences of climate change, and to operate more sustainably. A number of options were discussed to reduce their impact on the environment and Renew Wales helped the charity to develop an environmental action plan, which is to be implemented over the coming months. The scheme available to cover a variety of environmental reduction activities, including renewable energy, reducing consumption, local food and reduced or less impactful travel.

Paul Sartori Hospice at Home wouldn’t normally be associated with environmental activity. Through regular consultation over many months, the charity has been really encouraged by what they have learnt.

“We have invested a lot of time in developing the plan; discussed a number of alternatives along the way, but feel that the solar panel installation will have the biggest impact for the charity in the long term”, said Sandra Dade, Charity Manager. “The National Lottery Climate Action Boost has really inspired our charity to minimise our impacton the environment and we will continue this journey,” added Sandra.

Jemma Nurse, Funding Manager at The National Lottery Community Fund said, “The climate emergency is everyone’s business, which is why The National Lottery Community Fund is acting to support and inspire communities to minimise their own impact on the environment. We are proud to be a significant funder of environmental projects and Paul Sartori Hospice at Home, along with the other groups participating in Climate Action Boost, will play a valuable part in building our knowledge so we can share our learning with other funders across Wales and the UK.”

The services provided by the Paul Sartori Hospice at Home enable people in the later stages of any life-limiting illness to be cared for and to die at home with dignity, independence, pain free and surrounded by those they hold most dear, if that is their wish.

All of the services are free of charge, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, thanks to the generosity of the Pembrokeshire Community. Further information on the charity and its services can be obtained by visiting their website www.paulsartori.org, or by phoning 01437 763223.

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New nursing service to support carers of people living with dementia

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HYWEL DDA UNIVERSITY HEALTH BOARD, in partnership with Dementia UK, is launching a new nursing service to support carers of people living with dementia.

The Admiral Nurse service will be a significant addition to the current support available to people living with dementia and their carers. The initiative is in line with the Dementia Action Plan for Wales 2018-2022, a Welsh Government strategy that aims to recognise the rights of people with dementia, make them feel valued, and help them live as independently as possible in their communities.

The team will cover Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire with a focus on delivering person–centred and relationship-centred dementia care. The Admiral Nurses will work collaboratively in a family-centric manner, across health and social care pathways, to provide support, expert guidance & practical solutions to enable families/carers, including the person living with dementia, to maximise their wellbeing and improve the experience of those affected by dementia.

Dementia UK is the only charity in the UK dedicated to supporting families affected by dementia through dementia specialist Admiral Nurses.  When things get challenging or difficult for people with dementia and their families, Admiral Nurses work alongside them, giving the compassionate one-to-one support, expert guidance and practical solutions that can be difficult to find elsewhere. They are a lifeline, helping families to live more positively with dementia in the present, and to face the challenges of tomorrow with more confidence and less fear.  

The service launched on 29th March 2021 and is now accepting referrals.

Charlotte Duhig, Admiral Nurse Clinical Lead, said: “I am honoured to be leading this new service to support carers and families of people living with dementia across the counties served by Hywel Dda University Health Board. The COVID-19 pandemic has been an incredibly challenging time for people living with dementia and their carers but I’m confident that this much-needed service will make a difference to the lives of those affected by dementia.

“Having previously set up an Admiral Nurse Service, I know the benefit of working as an Admiral Nurse as families can get the emotional and practical support to allow them to plan for the future. Health and social care professionals can also take advantage of our in-depth knowledge of dementia.”

Dr Hilda Hayo, CEO and Chief Admiral Nurse at Dementia UK, says: “We are delighted to announce this new Admiral Nurse service in partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board. The fact that this service extends to a large rural area within West Wales, with the support of two Welsh-speaking Admiral Nurses, means that we are improving access to dementia specialist support for families.”            

To be able to access this service, the following referral criteria applies:

  • The person being supported/cared for by the carer has a diagnosis (or likely diagnosis) of dementia.
  • The person with dementia and/or carer lives in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion or Pembrokeshire (or is registered with a GP in those areas).
  • The carer agrees to their referral to the Admiral Nurse
  • The carer should have identified need(s) that impact upon their caring role or as a consequence of their caring role*

If you are a health or social care professional or 3rd sector working with someone you believe this service could benefit, or you are a carer of someone living with dementia and would like to be referred to the service, please contact a health or social care professional who can refer you. 

For further information, contact the nursing team direct:

Clinical Lead: Charlotte.Duhig@wales.nhs.uk

Admiral NurseContact detailsLocality covered
Bethan BulmanBethan.Bulman@wales.nhs.ukCeredigion North
Donna Phillips Ceredigion South
Emma VenablesEmma.Venables@wales.nhs.ukPembrokeshire North
Rosie BellRosie.Bell@wales.nhs.ukPembrokeshire South
Siriol DyerSiriol.Dyer2@wales.nhs.ukCarmarthenshire (3Ts)
Liz WrightElizabeth.Wright@wales.nhs.ukCarmarthenshire (Amman Gwendraeth)
Donna OwensDonna.Owens2@wales.nhs.ukCarmarthenshire (Llanelli)
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Police looking for a couple with a dog after teenage girl bitten in Haverfordwest

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POLICE hunting for the owners of a ‘pitbull’ type dog which bit a teenage girl in Haverfordwest last month.

Dyfed-Powys Police is investigating an incident which occurred at about 6.15pm on Tuesday 6th April 2021.

As two teenage girls were walking along Barn Street, Haverfordwest a dog has bitten one of the girls leaving visible marks and bruising.

The dog was accompanied by a man and a woman, both described as approximately 30 years old. 

The man is described as white, bald, a jaw line beard, big build wearing camouflage trousers and a jumper.

The woman is described as white, with black hair, medium to large build and shorter than the man she was with.

Their dog is described as a pitbull type dog, ginger in colour with black markings.

Anyone who has witnessed the incident or anyone who has information that could help the investigation is asked to contact PC David Norman 227 by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

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