British police arrest 'stowaways' who threatened cargo ship crew

LONDON (AFP) - Four stowaways who reportedly threatened the crew of a cargo ship coming from Nigeria with iron bars were held on Saturday (Dec 22) after British police boarded the vessel and arrested them.

The Grande Tema, a 71,000-tonne ship which set off from Lagos on December 10, was boarded and secured by police late on Friday and brought into its destination port of Tilbury in Essex, east of London, on Saturday.

"Four men have been detained under the Immigration Act," the local Essex Police force said.

The police intervention followed reports of "concerns for the safety of crew after a number of people were found on board.

"No one on board the vessel has been injured."

Paul Kyprianou, a spokesman for the ship's owner Grimaldi Lines, said the four stowaways were discovered after the vessel set sail from Lagos.

They had been detained but managed to free themselves on Friday and the 27 crew members locked themselves in the bridge, he said.

"They have been threatening the crew" with iron tubes, said Kyprianou, adding that the stowaways had wanted the ship to be directed very close to the British coast.

The Italian-flagged ship was carrying containers and machinery.