Around 16 members of the Special Boat Service (SBS) based in Poole stormed an oil tanker off the Isle of Wight following a suspected hijacking by stowaways.

But what is known about the SBS? here we explain what they do.

What did the SBS commandos do when they stormed Nave Andromeda?

Sixteen members of the Special Boat Service (SBS), backed by airborne snipers, secured the vessel in around nine minutes.

Four military helicopters – thought to have included two Merlin Mk 4s, a Wildcat and a Chinook – took 40 personnel to the scene of the suspected hijack aboard the Nave Andromeda along with the 16 members of the SBS boarded the vessel.

The Ministry of Defence said: “In response to a police request, the Defence Secretary and Home Secretary authorised Armed Forces personnel to board a ship in the English Channel to safeguard life and secure a ship that was subject to suspected hijacking."

What is the SBS?

The SBS is the elite maritime counter-terrorism unit of the Royal Navy, with most of its personnel Royal Marine Commandos who, the MoD says, “specialise in daring undercover raids that exploit the element of surprise”.

SBS operations are highly classified and not officially confirmed, but when stowaways ran amok on a cargo ship in the Thames Estuary in December 2018, the ship’s operator said they were detained after SBS personnel were airlifted onto the vessel.

The SBS traditionally bolsters its ranks in secret with the toughest Royal Marines.

The origins of the SBS, formerly known as the Special Boat Squadron, lie in the small reconnaissance and sabotage units deployed in the Second World War.

Famous members include former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown, who lived in Napier Road, Hamworthy.

The SBS motto is “By Strength And Guile”. 

What do we know about the Poole base?

Royal Marines Base Poole is a British naval base located in Hamworthy and is the centre for Special Boat Service activities. It was built in 1942 with the creation of RAF Hamworthy.

The base is home to around 820 naval servicemen. The units there include the Special Boat Service (SBS) and 148 Commando Artillery which works closely with the SBS.

As well as its special forces, it is also home to associated logistics, medical and transport staff and a detachment of the Royal Marines Reserve.

Poole’s Royal Marine base was previously threatened with closure during reviews in 1995 and 2002.

In 2013, a number of staff from the Hamworthy base relocated to Devonport when 10 (Landing Craft) Training Squadron Royal Marines moved to the Royal Navy’s £30million training centre.

Anything else?

In the aftermath of the United States Navy Seals raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, it emerged members of the SBS had worked with the Americans to plan the attack.

SBS officers reportedly used their specialist signals knowledge to plan how to block communications at the Pakistan compound during the raid.