Venezuelan patrol vessel sinks after colliding with cruise ship

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ANBV Naiguatá (GC-23), a littoral patrol boat of the Venezuelan Coast Guard, sank following a collision with a cruise ship off Venezuela’s northern coast last week.

The incident took place at around 00:45 on March 30, 2020, according to Venezuela’s defense ministry.

The country’s government claimed that the collision occurred in the country’s territorial waters, near the La Tortuga Island, after the Portugal-flagged cruise ship RCGS Resolute entered Venezuela’s jurisdictional waters illegally. The government also suggested that the cruise ship may have carrying mercenaries that intended “to attack military bases in Venezuela.”

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said that the 80-meter patrol boat ordered the cruise ship to follow it to the Port of Isla de Margarita.

“Being escorted, it (the cruise ship) decided to ram the Bolivarian navy ship, which caused its sinking,” the minister noted, accusing Resolute of a “cowardly and criminal” action as the ship “did not attend to the rescue of the crew.”

Eventually, all personnel was successfully rescued from the sinking patrol boat, the ministry informed.

However, Hamburg-based ship manager Columbia Cruise Services explained that it was the patrol boat that rammed the cruise ship.

“(T)he cruise vessel RCGS Resolute has been subject to an act of aggression by the Venezuelan Navy in international waters, around 13.3 nautical miles from Isla de Tortuga with 32 crew member and no passengers on board,” the company said in a separate statement.

It added that the cruise ship had been drifting for one day off the coast of the island to conduct some routine engine maintenance on its idle voyage to Willemstad/ Curaçao.

“Shortly after mid-night, the cruise vessel was approached by an armed Venezuelan Navy vessel, which via radio questioning the intentions of the RCGS Resolute’s presence and gave the order to follow to Puerto Moreno on Isla De Margarita.”

“While the Master was in contact with the head office, gun shots were fired and, shortly thereafter, the navy vessel approached the starboard side at speed with an angle of 135° and purposely collided with the RCGS Resolute,” Columbia Cruise Services continued.

“The navy vessel continued to ram the starboard bow in an apparent attempt to turn the ship’s head towards Venezuelan territorial waters.”

The ice-strengthened expedition vessel sustained only minor damages not affecting its seaworthiness. However, the patrol boat Naiguata (GC-23) was severely damaged and started to take on water.

Columbia Cruise Services said that the 8,300-ton cruise ship remained in the vicinity of the scene for more than one hour and reached out to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) Curaçao. All attempts to contact those on board the navy ship were reportedly unanswered. After receiving the order to resume passage, Resolute continued sailing towards its destination at Curaçao.

A full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident will now be carried out, the company added.

Naval Today Staff

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