Cineworld has today confirmed plans to temporarily close 127 sites across the UK.
The cinema chain will make the closures in both the UK and the US after big studios started to delay their major film releases to wait for better audiences.
The decision will affect around 45,000 employees in the two countries – Cineworld’s two main markets.
It will shut 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse theatres in the UK from this Thursday, and 536 Regal theatres in the US.
Cineworld today confirmed it was considering the temporary closure of its UK cinemas, as well as its US cinemas, but that ‘a final decision has not yet been reached’
Cineworld chief executive Mooky Greidinger said: ‘This is not a decision we made lightly, and we did everything in our power to support safe and sustainable reopenings in all of our markets – including meeting, and often exceeding, local health and safety guidelines in our theatres and working constructively with regulators and industry bodies to restore public confidence in our industry.
‘We are especially grateful for and proud of the hard work our employees put in to adapt our theatres to the new protocols and cannot underscore enough how difficult this decision was.
‘Cineworld will continue to monitor the situation closely and will communicate any future plans to resume operations in these markets at the appropriate time, when key markets have more concrete guidance on their reopening status and, in turn, studios are able to bring their pipeline of major releases back to the big screen.’
But staff took to Twitter overnight to slam the company for not telling employees about the plans before they were reported in the Sunday Times – which said in its report that it had approached Cineworld for a comment prior to publication.
One Twitter user said: ‘This is going out to all my fellow Cineworld colleagues up and down the country, wishing you the best in these early hours with the news of the closures.
‘Been with Cineworld for 12 years, to find out I’ve not got a job via Twitter; once again; is damn appalling.’
Another, whose husband works for Cineworld, said: ‘Just checking Twitter before bed … oh looks like we just found out via Twitter that my husbands place of work is closing, thanks for telling your employees Cineworld, finding out on Twitter as usual.
‘I guess we’ll wait to hear from them at some point in the future.’
A group on Twitter named the Cineworld Action Group also took to the social media site to comment on the reports.
A Cineworld staff member, who did not want to be named, said they feel ‘betrayed’.
The employee said: ‘None of us have been told a single thing yet, so me and my work colleagues are sort of in panic mode right now, wondering what’s going to happen to our jobs, especially this close to Christmas.’
Alongside the closure plans, bosses of Cineworld Group PLC are reportedly preparing to write to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and culture minister Oliver Dowden to say the industry has become ‘unviable’.
Alongside the closure plans, bosses of Cineworld Group PLC are reportedly preparing to write to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and culture minister Oliver Dowden to say the industry has become ‘unviable’
Fast & Furious sequel F9 is pushed back AGAIN to May 2021
The Fast And The Furious series will not be seeing the checkered flag anytime soon.
The release of the highly-anticipated sequel F9 has been delayed again as it is now set for release on May 28, 2021 during Memorial Day weekend it was announced by Universal on Friday.
Back in March it was reported that the film was delayed to April 3 2021 according to The Hollywood Reporter.
However the most recent change was made hours after James Bond film No Time to Die delayed its release from November to April 2, 2021.
Universal is distributing the film internationally.
The Fast and Furious movies are always big earners at the domestic and international box office and the absence of F9 will impact the 2020 box office in a major way. The past two films have made over $1 billion.
Just a month earlier the full trailer had been unveiled.
The clip showed Vin Diesel’s character Dominic Toretto facing off again his brother, Jakob, played by John Cena, with epic car chases and fights across London – and appearances by Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren.
Cineworld chiefs have reportedly blamed the decision, which is expected to be a temporary measure until next year, on the postponement of big budget films in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, the reports say.
On Friday it was announced that the release of the new James Bond movie No Time to Die would be delayed until April 2021.
The announcement was made just weeks before it was about to be released.
The highly-anticipated film had already been postponement from its original release date in April due to coronavirus.
Last week, the release of the highly-anticipated Fast and Furious sequel F9 was also delayed again, while Disney announced last month that its live-action version of Mulan instead debut on its streaming service Disney Plus instead of a theatrical release.
The new Fast and Furious meanwhile is set for release on May 28, 2021, it was announced by Universal yesterday.
Cineworld will look to reopen next year in line with the big blockbuster releases, according to the reports, which suggest many of the company’s staff will be offered redundancy, with possible incentives to rejoin when cinemas reopen.
Union Bectu, which represents staff in the cinema sector, urged filmmakers to think ‘carefully’ about the impact delayed releases could have on the industry.
A spokesperson said: ‘The delay in the release of the Bond film, along with the other delayed releases, has plunged cinema into crisis.’
Boss Philippa Childs said: ‘If these reports are true, then the first people Cineworld should be informing are their staff who will suffer as a result – not the Sunday newspapers.
‘Whilst cinemas have been able to open since July, and the experience of those who have visited since then has been an overwhelmingly positive one, the stark reality is that without new releases it is unlikely that footfall will increase to a level that makes opening financially viable.’
The latest film in the James Bond series ‘No Time To Die’, which had been scheduled to debut in theatres on November 11, has now been postponed until April 2021
British Film Institute (BFI) chief executive Ben Roberts raised similar concerns about the prospects of the industry as a whole, but emphasised ‘great reasons to visit your local cinema – as distributors continue to offer new independent films to audiences’.
Harry Styles DENIES claims he is in the running to play James Bond… despite odds for his 007 chances being SLASHED from 100/1 to just 25/1
Harry Styles has hit back at claims that he’s told pals he’s in the running to replace Daniel Craig as James Bond.
Sources had told The Sun that the British singer, 26, met with film bosses about taking over the iconic role, with odds on him landing the role being slashed from 100/1 to 25/1.
But a representative for Harry has since told MailOnline that the reports ‘aren’t even remotely true.’
A source previously said: ‘Harry is deadly serious. He has had a series of high-level meetings about becoming 007. Harry believes he is the final two.
‘Harry is a new age British man… he’s confident in his own skin and making him Bond would signal the franchise changing with the times.’
MailOnline has also contacted representatives for EON Productions for comment.
Harry had remained as one of the favourites to replace Daniel Craig as James Bond, and according to Ladbrokes, odds on him landing the part have been slashed to just 25/1, from 100/1 previously.
It comes following reports last month that Tom Hardy is set to land the iconic role.
The Vulcan Reporter reported they heard in June that Hardy had been offered the iconic part after a successful audition, while bookies odds on the star have now been slashed in half.
The publication also reported producers had planned to unveil Tom as James Bond in November- the same month No Time To Die was due to be released.
However, due to the coronavirus pandemic the Vulcan Reporter state the announcement will now be made later this year or early 2021.
Since the speculation began the likes of James Norton, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba and even retired footballer David Beckham have been mentioned as possible replacements.
His call to get customers back into seats was echoed by the Government, which promised a package of more than £1.5billion to help the arts and culture industries recover from the pandemic in July.
A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: ‘The Government is supporting cinemas through the VAT cut on tickets and concessions, business rates holiday and bounce-back loans.
‘Independent cinemas are also eligible for a share of £30 million from our unprecedented £1.5 billion culture recovery fund, and funding has started to be allocated already.
‘Cinemas up and down the country are open for business and Covid secure.
‘We urge the British public to support their local cinema and save jobs by visiting and enjoying a film in accordance with the guidance.’
The reports are another knock-back for the UK cinema industry, which took a profit hit when the country was plunged into lockdown in March following the outbreak of coronavirus.
After months of forced closures, Cineworld was due to reopen its theatres on July 10, after lockdown measures were eased by the government, allowing the reopening of cinemas from July 4.
But it delayed the reopening of its cinemas in the UK by more than two weeks until July 31 to coincide with ‘recent adjustments to the schedule of upcoming movie releases’.
Social distancing measures were also introduced, including such as one-way systems, perspex screens for staff, mandatory contactless payment and no more pick and mix.
However, despite reopening, Cineworld raised doubts over its ability to survive a second lockdown as it reported a £1.3bn loss for the first half of the year because of the Covid-19 crisis.
The cinema chain, which is the largest in the UK and second largest in the world behind Chinese firm Wanda Cinemas, posted pre-tax loss for the six months to June compares with profits of £110m a year earlier.
Issues were further compounded by a short supply of big blockbusters throughout the summer.
Christopher Nolan’s spy-thriller Tenet set to be one of the highlights.
However industry experts have reportedly been ‘spooked’ by the film’s lacklustre performance on the big screen, causing other major studios to postpone their major releases.
This includes the latest in the James Bond series ‘No Time To Die’, which had been scheduled to debut in theatres on November 11.
But it will now be delayed ‘in order for it to be seen by a worldwide theatrical audience’, the film’s producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli announced this week.
A statement on Twitter read: ‘MGM, Universal and Bond producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, today announced the release of NO TIME TO DIE, the 25th film in the James Bond series, will be delayed until 2 April 2021 in order to be seen by a worldwide theatrical audience.
‘We understand the delay will be disappointing to our fans but we now look forward to sharing NO TIME TO DIE next year.’
Reports of Cineworld closure plans comes amid a bloodbath of jobs on the high street, with 193,731 job losses now announced by major British employers since the start of the lockdown in March.
Earlier this week, TSB has said it will cut around 900 jobs as part of plans to close 164 of its high street bank branches.
The Edinburgh-based bank said it expects most of the redundancies to be voluntary but did not rule out forcing staff out.
The bank is the latest big name to announce job losses since the start of lockdown.
Major high street chains including Boots, WH Smith and Marks and Spencer has already announced job cuts.
Lunch chain Pret a Manger announced 2,800 job cuts earlier this year, while coffee giant Costa announced plans to cut 1,650 jobs.
Nearly 200,000 job losses revealed by UK firms since lockdown began
Some 192,831 job losses have been announced by major British employers since the start of the lockdown in March as follows:
- September 22 – Wetherspoon – 400 to 450
- September 22 – Whitbread – 6,000
- September 18 – Investec – 210
- September 15 – Waitrose – 124
- September 14 – London City Airport – 239
- September 9 – Lloyds Bank – 865
- September 9 – Pizza Hut – 450
- September 4 – Virgin Atlantic – 1,150
- September 3 – Costa – 1,650
- August 27 – Pret a Manger – 2,800 (includes 1,000 announced on July 6)
- August 26 – Gatwick Airport – 600
- August 25 – Co-operative Bank – 350
- August 20 – Alexander Dennis – 650
- August 18 – Bombardier – 95
- August 18 – Marks & Spencer – 7,000
- August 14 – Yo! Sushi – 250
- August 14 – River Island – 350
- August 12 – NatWest – 550
- August 11 – InterContinental Hotels – 650 worldwide
- August 11 – Debenhams – 2,500
- August 7 – Evening Standard – 115
- August 6 – Travelex – 1,300
- August 6 – Wetherspoons – 110 to 130
- August 5 – M&Co – 380
- August 5 – Arsenal FC – 55
- August 5 – WH Smith – 1,500
- August 4 – Dixons Carphone – 800
- August 4 – Pizza Express – 1,100 at risk
- August 3 – Hays Travel – up to 878
- August 3 – DW Sports – 1,700 at risk
- July 31 – Byron – 651
- July 30 – Pendragon – 1,800
- July 29 – Waterstones – unknown number of head office roles
- July 28 – Selfridges – 450
- July 27 – Oak Furnitureland – 163 at risk
- July 23 – Dyson – 600 in UK, 300 overseas
- July 22 – Mears – fewer than 200
- July 20 – Marks & Spencer – 950 at risk
- July 17 – Azzurri Group (owns Zizzi and Ask Italian) – up to 1,200
- July 16 – Genting – 1,642 at risk
- July 16 – Burberry – 150 in UK, 350 overseas
- July 15 – Banks Mining – 250 at risk
- July 15 – Buzz Bingo – 573 at risk
- July 14 – Vertu – 345 July 14 – DFS – up to 200 at risk
- July 9 – General Electric – 369
- July 9 – Eurostar – unknown number
- July 9 – Boots – 4,000
- July 9 – John Lewis – 1,300 at risk
- July 9 – Burger King – 1,600 at risk
- July 7 – Reach (owns Daily Mirror and Daily Express newspapers) – 550
- July 6 – Pret a Manger – 1,000 at risk
- July 2 – Casual Dining Group (owns Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge) – 1,909
- July 1 – SSP (owns Upper Crust) – 5,000 at risk
- July 1 – Arcadia (owns TopShop) – 500
- July 1 – Harrods – 700
- July 1 – Virgin Money – 300
- June 30 – Airbus – 1,700
- June 30 – TM Lewin – 600
- June 30 – Smiths Group – ‘some job losses’
- June 25 – Royal Mail – 2,000
- June 24 – Jet2 – 102
- June 24 – Swissport – 4,556
- June 24 – Crest Nicholson – 130
- June 23 – Shoe Zone – unknown number of jobs in head office
- June 19 – Aer Lingus – 500
- June 17 – HSBC – unknown number of jobs in UK, 35,000 worldwide
- June 15 – Jaguar Land Rover – 1,100
- June 15 – Travis Perkins – 2,500
- June 12 – Le Pain Quotidien – 200
- June 11 – Heathrow – at least 500
- June 11 – Bombardier – 600
- June 11 – Johnson Matthey – 2,500
- June 11 – Centrica – 5,000
- June 10 – Quiz – 93
- June 10 – The Restaurant Group (owns Frankie and Benny’s) – 3,000
- June 10 – Monsoon Accessorise – 545
- June 10 – Everest Windows – 188
- June 8 – BP – 10,000 worldwide
- June 8 – Mulberry – 375
- June 5 – Victoria’s Secret – 800 at risk
- June 5 – Bentley – 1,000
- June 4 – Aston Martin – 500
- June 4 – Lookers – 1,500
- May 29 – Belfast International Airport – 45
- May 28 – Debenhams (in second announcement) – ‘hundreds’ of jobs
- May 28 – EasyJet – 4,500 worldwide
- May 26 – McLaren – 1,200
- May 22 – Carluccio’s – 1,000
- May 21 – Clarks – 900
- May 20 – Rolls-Royce – 9,000
- May 20 – Bovis Homes – unknown number
- May 19 – Ovo Energy – 2,600
- May 19 – Antler – 164
- May 15 – JCB – 950 at risk
- May 13 – Tui – 8,000 worldwide
- May 12 – Carnival UK (owns P&O Cruises and Cunard) – 450
- May 11 – P&O Ferries – 1,100 worldwide
- May 5 – Virgin Atlantic – 3,150
- May 1 – Ryanair – 3,000 worldwide
- April 30 – Oasis Warehouse – 1,800
- April 29 – WPP – unknown number
- April 28 – British Airways – 12,000
- April 23 – Safran Seats – 400
- April 23 – Meggitt – 1,800 worldwide
- April 21 – Cath Kidston – 900
- April 17 – Debenhams – 422
- March 31 – Laura Ashley – 268
- March 30 – BrightHouse – 2,400 at risk
- March 27 – Chiquito – 1,500 at risk
This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk
Revolution Bars to close six venues after Covid restrictions caused its takings to fall by a third
Revolution Bars has revealed it plans to close six venues putting 130 jobs at risk across the country as the impact of a 10pm curfew caused its bar sales to drop by a third.
Sales at Revolution-branded bars are 49.4 per cent down on last year’s levels, as the hospitality industry bears the brunt of Covid-19 restrictions.
The company has confirmed around 130 jobs look set to be cut out of its workforce of 2,500 people – but has not confirmed which venues are set to close.
Six Revolution bars are set to close after the company saw its bar sales drop by a third once a 10pm curfew was introduced on September 24
There are 50 Revolution bars nationwide, meaning 37 will be left unscathed by these proposed changes.
Revolution Bars Limited said that it will have to shut six of its bars and reduce rents at seven others as part of a proposed company voluntary arrangement (CVA).
The CVA will be discussed at a meeting with creditors on November 13.
In the three weeks before the curfew was introduced, the business’s bar sales were at nearly 78 per cent of last year’s levels. In the five weeks since the curfew started, that figure has dropped to 49.4 per cent.
Chief executive, Rob Pitcher, said: ‘Throughout this extended period of distress caused by Covid-19, the group has sought to prioritise the health and wellbeing of its staff and customers, minimise its cash consumption, maintain good levels of liquidity to ensure its ongoing viability and to be in a position to take advantage of opportunities that may arise once restrictions are lifted.
‘The CVA proposed by the group’s Revolution Bars Limited subsidiary entity, if agreed by landlords, is another proactive step to lower outgoings to help safeguard the future of the group and improve long-term performance.’
Around 130 jobs are set to go at six Revolutions bars across the country, the company has not confirmed which locations are facing closure
UK Hospitality has called for an end to the 10pm curfew, amid concerns for the impact it will have on bars and pubs nationwide.
Speaking earlier this month, chief executive Kate Nicholls said: ‘The introduction of the curfew has had a severe and devastating impact.
‘Businesses are feeling the cumulative impact of all the restrictions placed on them, but they have really suffered since the introduction of the curfew.
‘The curfew has wiped away revenue from businesses that were only just clinging on.
‘For many, it has tipped them into financial unviability.’
This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk
Mobile networks including EE, Vodafone and Tesco Mobile will be BANNED from selling locked phones
Ofcom will next year ban mobile phone operators from selling locking handsets.
The telecoms watchdog said the move would make it easier for customers to switch providers.
It will come into force in December 2021 and it is hoped to help people get better deals and value for money.
The move will affect BT/EE, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone, whose devices cannot be used on other networks unless a £10 unlock fee is paid.
O2, Sky, Three and Virgin already sell unlocked handsets.
Ofcom connectivity director Selina Chadha, said: ‘We know that lots of people can be put off from switching because their handset is locked.
‘So we’re banning mobile companies from selling locked phones, which will save people time, money and effort – and help them unlock better deals.’
The new move is hoped to offer more choice and better services for mobile phone users
Ofcom said people were left frustrated by the difficulties in unlocking a mobile, which can take a long amount of time.
Sky News reports it comes after the regulator’s earlier efforts to making switching easier, via the ‘text-to-switch’ service.
Ofcom will also make operators send customers full details of their contracts before they buy a mobile.
Earlier this month it said it was probing the ‘market position’ of BBC Sounds after its commercial rivals complained of the ‘adverse impact’ the service was having on business.
Vodaphone is one of the companies who still sell phones whose devices are locked
BBC Sounds was launched in 2018 as a ‘digital home’ for audio content – featuring live and on-demand radio, music mixes and podcasts.
But its commercial rivals have since complained about Radio 1 Dance, a new 24-hour dance music stream that will launch on BBC Sounds on October 9, because it is not ‘distinctive’ and does not offer ‘true public service value’.
The new stream will bring together the BBC’s existing dance content in one place, making it easy for listeners to catch their favourite shows outside of traditional schedules.
Ofcom said it would ‘take stock of Sounds at an appropriate point in its evolution’ but refused to conduct a public interest test because ‘we consider the impact of the new stream on the market is likely to be small’.
This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk
Tanker ‘hijackers’ may face a life behind bars but ‘may claim asylum’
Seven stowaways seized in a daring operation by special forces were last night facing lengthy jail terms for hijacking an oil tanker.
The suspects were detained under maritime laws which carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
They had allegedly threatened the 22-man crew of the 42,000-ton Nave Andromeda which was heading to Southampton from Lagos in Nigeria.
It was claimed they could be about to attempt to claim asylum in the UK, but it would not impact any police proceedings.
Special Boat Service commandos stormed the tanker off the Isle of Wight on Sunday evening after the ship’s terrified captain radioed for help.
They had allegedly threatened the 22-man crew of the 42,000-ton Nave Andromeda which was heading to Southampton from Lagos in Nigeria
The unnamed mariner said in broken English on an open radio channel: ‘I try to keep them calm but I need immediately, immediately agency assistance.’
He added that two intruders were on the starboard side near the bridge, although they had not managed to gain access.
In other radio messages the captain is reported to have said he feared for his life, and those of his crew.
The Greek-owned tanker, that flies the Liberian flag, had left Lagos on October 5, where the stowaways ‘illegally boarded’ the vessel, a spokesman for operator Navios Tanker Management said.
The SBS operation was authorised by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel.
The heavily-armed troops descended on to the tanker by rope from four Royal Navy helicopters after nightfall
A source close to Miss Patel said the 45 minutes during which the situation was resolved ‘felt like 45 hours’.
The heavily-armed troops descended on to the tanker by rope from four Royal Navy helicopters after nightfall.
The elite soldiers quickly rounded up the suspected hijackers and ended their mission after just nine minutes.
The seven suspected hijackers seized on Sunday night were last night being questioned in separate police stations across Hampshire after the 750ft tanker moored at Southampton.
A spokesman for Hampshire Police said: ‘It was reported that a number of stowaways were on board, and they had made threats towards the crew.’
He added: ‘All 22 crew members are safe and well and the vessel is now alongside in the port of Southampton. Investigators are speaking to the crew members to establish the exact circumstances of what happened.’
Bob Sanguinetti, chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping, said: ‘I think this has got all the hallmarks of a situation where a number of stowaways are seeking political asylum, presumably in the UK. At some stage they got aggressive. Clearly no one knew at the time how aggressive they were, whether they were armed or not and what their motives were.
‘In the discussions taking place between the ship’s captain and the authorities in the UK – both police and the military – they will have decided at some stage the least risky option was to board the vessel using the special forces.’
The drama echoed a previous case involving stowaways which unfolded aboard a cargo ship in the Thames Estuary in December 2018.
Four Nigerians had hidden aboard the Grande Tema in Lagos, and became disruptive as the ship entered UK waters.
The elite soldiers quickly rounded up the suspected hijackers and ended their mission after just nine minutes
The four attempted to repel an SBS boarding party by threatening to infect them with HIV, but were eventually arrested and prosecuted.
At least one made ‘throat-slitting’ gestures to crew, CCTV footage played in court showed.
However, after an eight week trial at the Old Bailey they were cleared of attempting to hijack the ship and convicted of affray.
Two were also found guilty of making threats to kill. They were jailed for a combined total of seven years.
That case highlights potential difficulties in securing convictions under the hijacking legislation.
What will the police do now?
Police will build a picture of the alleged hijackers’ activities aboard the Nave Andromeda. They are also likely to study electronic systems which record communications aboard the vessel and from ship-to-shore, known as a Voyage Data Recorder, or VDR, similar to the ‘black box’ aboard commercial aircraft.
What’s the law on hijacking and piracy?
The seven were arrested under Section 9 of the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990, which deals with hijackings. The law states: ‘A person who unlawfully, by the use of force or by threats of any kind, seizes a ship or exercises control of it, commits the offence of hijacking a ship.’
Richard Neylon, an expert in maritime law from law firm HFW, said: ‘If you try to seize control of a vessel and you have no business being aboard that vessel, the threshold is quite low under this legislation.’ The maximum sentence under the legislation is life imprisonment.
What could happen to the suspects?
Regardless of whether the Nigerians are charged with any crime, their removal from the UK is unlikely to be swift. Previous cases have shown hijackers were able to successfully challenge the Home Office.
For example, in February 2000 nine Afghan men hijacked an Ariana Afghan Airlines Boeing 727 and forced the pilot to land at Stansted. A siege involving the hijackers and 187 passengers and crew lasted five days. The hijackers were jailed but their convictions were later quashed.
In 2006, they brought legal action which allowed them to stay in Britain.
What happens to other Nigerian asylum seekers?
There were 1,279 asylum applications by Nigerians decided by the Home Office in the year to March – but the majority were refused.
Only 398 led to grants of asylum or other leave to remain, or just over 31 per cent. The rest were refused or withdrawn, Home Office data shows.
It is unclear how many of those who were refused were removed from the UK.
According to a research paper by the House of Commons Library, there were just over 26,000 asylum applications from Nigerians decided across the European Union during 2019.
Of those, just 16 per cent – or 4,795 – were granted in the first instance.
Storm the Andromeda! Minute by nerve-shredding minute, how SBS commandos blinded hijackers with lights before abseiling from helicopters and re-taking oil tanker
By Arthur Martin for the Daily Mail
It was a ten-hour standoff at sea that culminated in nine minutes of ruthless, military precision.
Special Boat Service commandos used a classic pincer movement to storm the Nave Andromeda.
Two heavily-armed squads, wearing night vision goggles and thermal imaging equipment, rappelled down ropes from choppers at either end of the tanker before converging on seven Nigerian stowaways who quickly surrendered.
As police continue to question the suspects, the Mail charts the build-up to Sunday night’s flawless operation.
Two weeks ago: Three Nigerian stowaways are pictured on a tanker’s rudder a fortnight ago
The seven stowaways slipped on board the Nave Andromeda shortly before the oil tanker left the Nigerian port of Lagos three weeks ago, on October 6.
After a brief stop off the coast of Saint-Nazaire in France it was heading to collect gasoline from Fawley Oil Refinery near Southampton when the drama unfolded.
The stowaways presence became known to the crew at some point during its 20-day voyage to Britain.
Officials are working on the assumption that they boarded though the rudder trunk of the vessel.
‘Security in Third World ports is not as high as in the West, so it is relatively easy to get through perimeter fences,’ maritime expert David Osler said. ‘International Maritime Organisation guidelines mandate search of vessels prior to departure, but sometimes stowaways slip through.’
The captain was lauded for his ‘exemplary response and calmness’ by the ship’s owners, Navios Tanker Management.
At around 9am on Sunday, the captain of the 42,000-ton tanker, a Greek-owned vessel which flies the Liberian flag, sent out a mayday distress signal six miles off the Isle of Wight when the stowaways allegedly started making threats to kill the crew. Tensions flared when the crew tried to lock the seven men in a cabin, having told them that they would be following protocol and informing authorities of their presence.
Nave Andromeda oil tanker is pictured berthed at Southampton docks on October 26
In a 21-second call which was released yesterday, the Greek captain begged ‘immediate assistance’ and described how the men were on the loose.
In heavily-accented English, he said: ‘The stowaways go outside, I see four person port side, midship, near to the manifold, and I have two of them starboard side on the bridge. I try to keep them calm but I need immediately, immediately agency assistance.’
The captain and 20 other crew members took refuge in the ship’s citadel, an emergency room used during pirate attacks, after the migrants ‘smashed glass and made threats to kill’.
From here they could control the ship and communicate with the authorities. Only the engineer, another Greek national, did not retreat to the citadel. The engineer remained in the engine room taking instructions from the master. A source said: ‘The captain clearly stated he feared for their lives and needed urgent assistance, they needed rescuing. It was desperation, you could hear the fear in his voice.’
The ship’s operator, Navios Tanker Management, said: ‘Navios would also like to pay tribute to the master of the Nave Andromeda for his exemplary response and calmness and to all the crew for their fortitude in a difficult situation.’
Stalling for time
An hour later Hampshire Police receives reports regarding ‘concerns for the safety’ of the crew who had received ‘verbal threats’.
The ship had been due to dock at Southampton at 10.30am – but the captain decided the situation was too dangerous to approach the port. Instead, he steered the tanker on a circular and zig-zag course off the Isle of Wight to play for time.
The Nave Andromeda was built in 2011 and weighs 42,338 tonnes. It was last known to be docked in Lagos, Nigeria on October 6 (pictured: The ship off the Isle of Wight on Sunday)
An exclusion zone of three nautical miles was set up around the ship. By 5pm Hampshire constabulary had submitted a formal request to the Ministry of Defence for military support. The Royal Navy was given command of the operation and was given authorisation to use armed forces to board the tanker by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Throughout the afternoon, two coastguard helicopters flew overhead, monitoring the situation. On land, an armed unit of police set up a station on the Isle of Wight. Richard Meade, of the Lloyd’s List Intelligence maritime service, said: ‘Seven stowaways were discovered on board. The crew tried to detain them in a cabin, but the stowaways did not want to be locked away in a cabin and became violent and that raised the security alarm.’
Positioning the troops
After taking control of the mission, naval chiefs acted quickly to assemble an astonishing array of firepower.
A Chinook helicopter collected SBS troops and fast assault craft from the elite unit’s HQ in Poole in Dorset, some 15 miles away, and stationed them just out of sight of the Nave Andromeda.
The frigate HMS Richmond was put on alert in the Channel and divers were assembled in case explosive mines had been placed on the ship’s hull, sources said. Shortly before the attack the captain of the tanker was asked to put the lights out and turn into the wind to prepare for the arrival of the special forces.
Storming the tanker
At around 7.30pm – just over 10 hours after the first mayday call –military chiefs ordered the attack.
A formation of helicopters swooped in, deploying a deafening din and dazzling lights, known as ‘obscurant’ tactics, to disorientate the stowaways on board. The plan was to ‘overwhelm them with the noise of the rotor discs, and put a lot of light in to blind them’, a source said.
The Special Boat Service (SBS) raided the tanker yesterday evening off the Isle of Wight after stowaways were found on board who threatened the crew. Pictured is an official on the boat
At least one Wildcat helicopter, fitted with an electro-optical device to aid its night vision, swept the deck for signs of hostile behaviour. Troops on landing craft approached and scanned the tanker with sniper rifles. Two Merlin Mk 4 helicopters then approached in ‘dark mode’ and took positions above the bow and stern of the ship.
Eight SBS troopers rappelled by rope onto the deck at each end and converged on the middle of the ship in a pincer movement.
Wearing night vision goggles with thermal imaging to detect human heat sources, the units closed in on the seven stowaways who were grouped in one place on the deck.
They were not thought to be armed and surrendered swiftly.
It took the SBS less than nine minutes to arrest the suspects, secure the tanker and lead the crew out of their panic room. Some 40 minutes later the Ministry of Defence confirmed that the forces ‘have gained control of the ship and seven individuals have been detained’. The seven Nigerians were promptly arrested on suspicion of seizing or exercising control of a ship by use of threats or force.
They all remain in custody at police stations across Hampshire.
Investigators are speaking to the crew members to establish the exact circumstances of what happened. The ship, which can carry up to 42,000 tons of crude oil, is now in the port of Southampton.
An aerial photo showing the Nave Andromeda docking at Southampton at around 2.30am following Sunday’s dramatic events
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace paid tribute to the courageous personnel who braved ‘dark skies and worsening weather’ to ensure the safety of the ship’s crew.
Former Rear Admiral Chris Parry said: ‘From the time the helicopters went in and the SBS roped on to the ship, they rounded up the people pretty quickly.
‘I think the stowaways themselves accepted this was probably the end of the journey for them and there probably wasn’t any point in resisting heavily-armed men approaching them.’
A Hampshire police spokesman said: ‘The vessel had been travelling in the direction of Southampton, having sailed from Lagos in Nigeria. It was reported that a number of stowaways were on board, and they had made threats towards the crew.
‘Following a multi-agency response by police, with support from the military and other emergency service partners, seven people were detained by police. All 22 crew members are safe and well.’
This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk
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