THE stand-off on an oil tanker off the coast of the Isle of Wight was broken shortly after 7pm last night when a team of crack commandos landed on the troubled tanker.

Sixteen commandos from the Special Boat Service were winched down onto the Nave Andromeda from Wildcat and Merlin helicopters and within seven minutes had secured the stowaways and ensured the crew, locked in the ship's citadel, were safe.

But who are the Special Boat Service, whose men carried out the lightning operation to ensure the safety of the crew and the ship laden with oil after it was threatened by seven stowaways who boarded it in Lagos, Nigeria.

The SBS is the Royal Navy's equivalent of the SAS and comes under the auspices of the highly decorated Royal Marines.

Daily Echo: The Merlin Mark 3 helicopter used by the SBS.The Merlin Mark 3 helicopter used by the SBS.

Formed at the height of the Second World War, what is now the SBS is the Royal Navy’s answer to the SAS.

They are among the most elite and capable soldiers in the entire British military.

Their motto is 'By Strength and Guile' and would have used both qualities in last night's operation.

During the Second World War, the Army Special Boat Section was formed in 1940.

Daily Echo: Wildcat helicopters like this (right) were used in the operation on the Nave Andromeda.Wildcat helicopters like this (right) were used in the operation on the Nave Andromeda.

After the war, the Royal Navy formed special forces with several name changes — Special Boat Company was adopted in 1951 and re-designated as the Special Boat Squadron in 1974 — until on July 28, 1987 when the unit was renamed as the Special Boat Service after assuming responsibility for maritime counter-terrorism.

Most of the operations conducted by the SBS are highly classified.

Pictures courtesy of the Royal Navy.