Following the sinking of a Venezuelan naval vessel following the ramming of an Ice Class cruise ship, her manager Columbia Cruise Services put out the following statement.
In the early morning hours of the 30th March, 2020 (local time), the cruise vessel ‘RCGS Resolute’ was the subject of an act of aggression by the Venezuelan Navy, Columbia said.
This incident occurred in international waters, around 13.3 nautical miles from Isla de Tortuga. The cruise ship had 32 crew members on board but no passengers.
The cruise vessel had been drifting for a day off the island’s coast to conduct routine engine maintenance while on a re-positioning voyage to Willemstad, Curaçao.
As maintenance was being performed on the starboard main engine, the port main engine was kept on standby to maintain a safe distance from the island at all times, CCS claimed.
Shortly after midnight, the cruise vessel was approached by an armed Venezuelan navy vessel, which via radio transmission, questioned its intentions and gave an order to the cruise ship to follow it to Puerto Moreno on Isla De Margarita.
As the ‘RCGS Resolute’ was sailing in international waters at the time, the Master wanted to reconfirm the request, which would have resulted in a serious deviation from the scheduled vessel’s route, with CCS’ DPA.
While the Master was in contact with the head office, gun shots were fired and, shortly after, the naval vessel approached the cruise ship’s starboard side at speed with an angle of 135 deg and intentionally collided with the vessel.
The naval vessel continued to ram the starboard bow of the cruise ship in an apparent attempt to make the vessel turn towards Venezuelan territorial waters.
While the cruise ship sustained minor damage, not affecting its seaworthiness, the naval vessel suffered severe damage while making contact with the ice-strengthened bulbous bow of the expedition cruise vessel and started to take in water.
‘RCGS Resolute’ remained in the vicinity for over an hour in support of the naval vessel and contacted the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) Curaçao.
Attempts to contact the personnel on board the navy ship were unanswered.
Following the receipt of an order to resume passage at full speed by the MRCC and confirming that further assistance was not required, ‘RCGS Resolute’, continued her voyage to Curaçao and is now berthed at Willemstad.
A full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident will now be carried out, CCS said.
The Venezuelan naval ship was identified as the patrol vessel ‘Naiguata’, which was believed to be operated by the Venezuelan Coast Guard.
According to local media, Venezuelan President Maduro has accused the cruise ship of blatant aggression.