Thames Estuary ferry crew ‘locked in bridge after stowaway threats’

Four men who smuggled themselves onto a UK-bound ship sparked a huge emergency operation when they threatened crew members and demanded to be taken to the shore.

The stowaways, believed to have boarded the boat in Nigeria 10 days ago, used iron bars in an attempt to reach the UK.

They had been found and detained four days earlier, but this morning were able to escape the cabin where they were being held.

Essex Police were called at around 9am, and force bosses have described it as a "complex incident".

Paul Kyprianou, spokesman for the Grimaldi Group shipping company, told Mirror Online: "There are four stowaways, we found them four days ago and they were locked in a cabin.

"Today they forced the door and got free. They took iron bars and started threatening the crew, they wanted to get closer the shore.

"We understand they wanted to jump and reach the UK."

The ship, carrying car parts, departed Nigeria on December 10 and was due to land at Tilbury, in Essex, today.

Mr Kyprianou said it is standard procedure to lock up stowaways and hand them over to authorities when the ship lands.

He continued: "We assume as soon as they saw the shore of the UK they started getting violent and they locked the door."

Essex Police said officers were called shortly after 9am.

In a statement the force said: "We have received no reports that anyone has been harmed and don’t believe they are at risk. We are not currently 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.

"We are not in a position to provide any details who is on board at this stage".

The Grande Tema is ferry is part of the Grimaldi Lines fleet and was built in 2014.

The container carrier travels under an Italian flag.

It is currently off the coast of Margate in Kent.

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