Essex

Thames Estuary cargo ship: Four in court after military operation

Grande Tema cargo vessel Image copyright Farid Mernissi/Wikipedia
Image caption The Grande Tema was sailing from Lagos in Nigeria to Tilbury

Four men detained when the military boarded a cargo ship in the Thames Estuary have appeared in court.

The Special Boat Service descended on to the Grande Tema on Friday, its owner said, after concerns were raised for the crew's safety.

The 71,000-tonne vessel was carrying a cargo including chemicals from Lagos in Nigeria to Tilbury, Essex.

The men, of no fixed address, were charged with affray and remanded by magistrates until 31 December.

They are Samuel Jolumi, 26, Ishola Sunday, 27, Toheeb Popoola, 26, and Joberto McGee, 20.

Appearing at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court, the defendants spoke only to confirm their particulars, with McGee giving his nationality as Liberian and the others saying they were Nigerian.

The military had been called in to secure the ship late on Friday night, after a 14-hour operation.

After becoming aware alleged intruders were roaming the ship, the crew holed themselves up in the bridge and kept control of the vessel.

The ship docked at Tilbury shortly before 04.30 GMT on Saturday.

Four men on board were held under the Immigration Act before being handed over to the UK Border Force.

The ship's operator, Grimaldi Lines, said there were no reports of injuries.

Image copyright Marinetraffic.com
Image caption A map showing the Grande Tema sailing in circles in the Thames Estuary at 17:00 GMT on Friday.

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