FOUR stowaways found on a cargo ship in the Thames Estuary have been detained after the vessel’s crew was threatened.
The Grande Tema’s crew had to lock themselves in the vessel’s bridge for safety, a spokesman said.
Essex Police said the vessel was boarded and secured shortly after 23:00 GMT on Friday – almost 14 hours after the force was first called.
Four men who were on the ship have since been held under the Immigration Act, the force added.
The stowaways demanded to be taken to the coast, according to the ship’s owner.
Police previously said the situation was not being treated as a hostage, piracy or terror-related issue.
GPS trackers showed the 71,000-tonne ship, due to dock at Tilbury, sailing in circles in the Thames Estuary. It had set off from Lagos, Nigeria, on 10 December.
Grimaldi Group, which owns the vessel, said the four stowaways were discovered on board four days ago.
They were put under surveillance in a cabin but escaped earlier and made threats to the ship’s master as the vessel approached Tilbury, urging him to get close to the coast.
Grimaldi spokesman Paul Kyprianou said: “The vessel was coming from Nigeria and was bound to Tilbury and those four stowaways were in the cabin.
“Today they managed to escape from the cabin and they started threatening the crew, requesting the master of the vessel [navigate] very close to the coast.
“That request was probably because they wanted to jump and reach the British coast.”
He said the crew had locked themselves in the command area of the vessel.
Mr Kyprianou added: “It’s a small group but obviously you can understand it would be scary.”
A group of migrants has been found on a cargo container ship in the Thames Estuary and is threatening the crew, demanding to be taken to the coast.
Authorities are dealing with the ongoing incident where the group was discovered stowed away on the 236-metre long cargo ship, the Grande Tema.
Paul Kyprianou, spokesman for the Grimaldi Group shipping company, told Sky News: “We found four stowaways. The vessel was coming from Nigeria… They managed to escape from the cabin and started threatening the crew, requesting to have the vessel navigate very close to the coast… we understand they wanted to jump and reach the British coast.”
He said the crew reacted and locked themselves in the bridge of the vessel and are safe, and that the stowaways are not armed but have picked up potentially harmful objects.
“They managed to get whatever they could find on the vessel… pieces of iron, tubes and things like that and this is what they used in order to threaten,” Mr Kyprianou said.
“The vessel is under the command of the crew there is no question about that… the only problem is that we have four people who are free on the deck and they are threatening crew members and requesting they get close to the coast.”
The vessel had been travelling eastwards through the English Channel when the migrants were discovered this morning.
Maritime navigational tracking sites show the vessel circling around a position north east of Margate.
Police say officers are dealing with the incident and it is not being treated as a “hostage, piracy or terror-related incident”.
An Essex Police statement said: “We continue to deal with a complex incident on board a vessel that is in the Thames Estuary close to the Essex and Kent borders.
“This follows a call relating to the safety of crew on board at around 9.15am today, Friday, December 21.
“We have received no reports that anyone has been harmed and don’t believe they are at risk. We are not treating this as either a hostage, piracy or terror related incident.
“We are working closely with our partners to resolve this incident as quick as possible.