Thursday, December 27, 2018

Would Be Hijackers of RoRo Container Ship in Thames Estuary Not Technically Pirates

Four Stowaways Appear in Court on Christmas Eve
Shipping News Feature
UK – When four men attempted to take control of the RoRo/Container ship Grande Tema on Friday 21 December by threatening the crew this was not an attack off the Somali coast or the Niger Delta. The four stowaways must have indeed boarded the vessel in the Port of Tincan/Lagos, the ship's last call, but they waited until she approached the waters of the Thames Estuary before realising their plan.

The men had in fact been found by the ship’s crew some days earlier and had been locked in a cabin until, upon entering British waters, they escaped and armed themselves with iron bars. They then threatened the seamen and demanded the captain sail close to the coast, presumably so they could jump ship and escape into the UK.

In fact the crew had maintained a constant dialogue with the shore, and the captain of the 71,500 gross tonne Italian flagged vessel managed to get out a call for assistance which resulted in a dozen members of the Special Boat Service (SBS) getting to try out their tactics for real. The SBS was contacted after Essex Police received the distress call to say the vessel was entering the estuary which prompted the SBS to scramble a helicopter to deal with the situation.

The makeshift weaponry of the four men was hardly a match for 12 hyped up SBS troops doubtless armed to the teeth. The crew still had control of communications and the assault team merely told them to plunge the ship in darkness prior to the attack meaning doubtless the SBS squad had night vision equipment.

It would seem that the four men Samuel Jolumi, 26, Ishola Sunday, 27, Toheeb Popoola, 26, and Joberto McGee, 20 were easily overcome and locked in a cabin prior to the ship docking at the Essex Port of Tilbury as scheduled. A spokesman for the ship’s owners, Grimaldi Lines, said:

”It was very quick, when the operation by the special forces was about to take place we were asked to switch off the lights and then they stormed aboard.”

Fortunately nobody, either crew or stowaway was injured during the episode and the four were remanded in custody until Christmas Eve when they appeared before Chelmsford Magistrates to await tril at a later date. The alleged offence is not technically piracy as this is defined as theft from a vessel rather than taking control of one, nor do the authorities believe there was any link to terrorism.