Stowaways threaten cargo ship crew off British coast

LONDON (AFP) - Four stowaways armed with iron bars are threatening the crew of a cargo ship off the English coast and demanding to be taken ashore, a spokesman for the ship owner said.

Paul Kyprianou, spokesman for Grimaldi Lines, said they were discovered four days ago after the Grande Tema ship had set sail from Lagos in Nigeria, and had been detained.

But earlier on Friday (Dec 21), they managed to free themselves and the 27 crew members have since locked themselves in on the bridge.

"They have been threatening the crew since the morning," Kyprianou said of the stowaways.

"We are still waiting for the authorities to intervene."

Kyprianou said the crew were in direct contact with Essex Police and the British coastguard and were not in danger.

"We continue to deal with a complex incident on board a vessel," Essex Police said in a statement.

The ship is currently near the coast of the port town of Margate, according to the MarineTraffic tracker.

The Italian-flagged ship, carrying containers and machinery, was bound for the port of Tilbury in Essex, east of London.