Ex-Navy chief could take over ferry ‘no problem’ as he warns of hijack threat

A former Navy chief has said he could hijack a Channel ferry “with no problem at all” as he highlighted the threat of migrants doing so in their bid to reach UK shores.

Referring to the recent incident involving seven Nigerian stowaways aboard an oil tanker off the Isle of Wight, Lord West of Spithead said people will have seen that the takeover of a vessel “is not difficult”.

The Labour former security minister has sought assurances from the Government that steps are being taken to guard against such a scenario, warning that “the risks would be huge” if it did happen.

Speaking at Westminster, Lord West, who who was head of the Royal Navy and also served as chief of defence intelligence, hailed the weekend operation by members of the Special Boat Service (SBS) to secure the 748ft (228m) Nave Andromeda as “a textbook case”.

The peer said: “The desperation of these people is palpable as shown by the Nigerians who took over the tanker in the Channel only very recently.

“One should say the operation to recover that was very well executed – a textbook case.”

He also highlighted this week’s tragedy in which four members of a Kurdish-Iranian family died when their migrant boat sank in the Channel on Tuesday.

Lord West said: “As a seaman I can tell the house, I’ve been one for 50 years, that people will die in the Channel if they keep coming in these little inflatables.”

A Border Force officer attends to a collection of ribs and dinghys, thought to have been used in small boat incidents in the English Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)
A Border Force officer attends to a collection of ribs and dinghys, thought to have been used in small boat incidents in the English Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)

He added: “What worries me is people will have seen the takeover of a merchant ship or ferry is not difficult.

“I hope we are looking carefully at this.

“I could certainly take over a ferry in Calais with five people with no problem at all.

“That is a real worry.

“Can I ask the minister, is this being looked at?

“Are we taking precautions to make sure this doesn’t happen?

“The risks would be huge if that sort of thing happened.”

Responding, Tory frontbencher Lord Parkinson thanked the police and military “for their quick and decisive action” at the weekend.

Lord Parkinson added: “He’s right to raise the fact that as the weather worsens over the autumn and winter, then these crossings, which are dangerous already, will only get more perilous.

“The Home Office is working with the French authorities to look at all of the different routes people pursue – through the Channel Tunnel, through ferries and other means.

“This is not a safe route.

“All of these routes are dangerous to pursue and we don’t want to see anybody risking their lives in this way.”

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