The men have been detained under the Immigration Act, according to Essex Police, and no injuries were reported. Police have said they do not believe the incident is related to terrorism or piracy and the ship has been brought to port.
UK PM Theresa May finally authorized the operation which saw about 25 members of the Special Boat Service’s X Squadron sent in to retake control of the Grande Tema after it had been circling for 12 hours in the North Sea off Margate. Police, marine units, and coast guard were also on standby.
Armed with iron bars and other makeshift weapons, the four stowaways wrested control of the ship from the 27-man crew after demanding they steer the vessel closer to shore so the migrants could swim to land.
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The men were discovered on board the 70,000-ton Grimaldi Lines ship earlier this week as it approached the Thames Estuary, near where it was due to dock at Tilbury, Essex. They were locked in a cabin, but managed to escape. Crew members were able to lock themselves in the bridge and call for help, alerting authorities that the migrants were armed and acting “aggressively.”
The stowaways are believed to have boarded the ship at one of its many stops along the East African coast. Originating in Lagos, Nigeria, the Grande Tema also stopped in Benin, Ivory Coast and Morocco during its 11-day trip to the UK. The vessel was loaded with earth-moving equipment and trucks but is licensed to carry extremely dangerous cargo, according to Grimaldi spokesman Paul Kyprianou.