Owners of ship seized in Channel consider suing police

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The shipping company that owns the cargo ship boarded by anti-terrorist officers in the English Channel is considering suing the police.

The Great Eastern Shipping Company said the search of the MV Nisha was unnecessary, and criticised Scotland Yard's handling of the operation. If it succeeds in suing for the delayed journey, compensation could amount to tens of thousands of pounds per day. The search took four days but the ship's arrival could be delayed for weeks because the east London refinery where it had been due to deliver its cargo of 26,000 tons of raw sugar is now processing other loads.

Sudhir Mulji, chairman of the Indian company, told Radio 4's Today programme that he did not believe terrorists would have had enough time to plant anything, because the ship sailed very soon after it was booked. "The ship was not scheduled to come to England until 6 November. The terrorists would have had to have moved incredibly fast," he said.

Police could have discovered the timescale "by just asking in England", he added. "The ship belongs to a British company, it's chartered in England, the brokers are all English – it was just a question of asking someone."

The 450ft MV Nisha was intercepted by the Royal Navy frigate HMS Sutherland in international waters in the English Channel on 21 December in response to a tip-off that it was transporting noxious, hazardous or dangerous substances. It had raised suspicions because, on its way to England, it had stopped in Djibouti. Neighbouring Somalia is said to be a base of the al-Qa'ida terror group.

The MV Nisha, which had been scheduled to dock at the Tate & Lyle refinery at Silvertown on the Thames on Christmas Eve, was not given the all-clear until that day by anti-terrorist officers.

Assistant Commissioner David Veness, Scotland Yard's head of specialist operations, said officers would remain vigilant. He said he would not hesitate to take similar action again if there was a potential risk to the public.

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