Expatica news

Portuguese cruise ship allegedly rams Venezuelan naval vessel following confrontation

9venezuela shipA cruise company, travelling under the Portuguese flag, has claimed that one of its liners was both shot at and rammed by a Venezuelan navy vessel, which ended up sinking after the clash in the Caribbean.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro accused the captain of the RCGS Resolute cruise ship, which sails under a Portuguese flag, of “terrorism and piracy” by taking the action of ramming the offshore patrol vessel.

The bizarre incident occurred a day before President Donald Trump announced he was deploying more US Navy warships and aircraft to the Caribbean to stop “corrupt actors” like President Maduro exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to smuggle narcotics.

According to the Hamburg-based Columbia Cruise Services (CCS), the Resolute ship was idling in international waters off the uninhabited Venezuelan island of La Tortuga, with the 32-member crew performing maintenance work and no passengers on board.

The CCS says the Venezuelan Naiguatá patrol vessel approached after midnight, radioing the captain to question the Resolute’s presence,  ordering him to sail to Puerto Moreno on the island of Margarita. The statement says the Resolute’s captain asked for confirmation of the order as Margarita constituted a major deviation from the cruise ship’s planned route towards Curaçao.

CCS says that at this point “gun shots were fired and, shortly thereafter, the navy vessel approached the starboard side […] and purposely collided with the RCGS Resolute”.

The company’s version is that Resolute’s “ice-strengthened bulbous bow” resisted the navy vessel’s ramming to the point that the latter’s hull was damaged, but Venezuela’s president insisted the cruise ship had been the aggressor.   

The 44 person crew on board the Naiguatá navy patrol vessel were saved by Venezuelan rescue services in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The CCS ship claimed its offers to help were not accepted.

“The Portuguese vessel that rammed ours is eight times bigger,” Maduro said. “It is as if a heavyweight boxer grabbed hold of a boy learning to box and hit him.”

The incident was described simply as “unfortunate” by Portugal’s foreign minister, Augusto Santos Silva, after Venezuela registered a complaint with Portugal’s embassy in Caracas. Relations have been strained between Lisbon and Caracas recently, after Venezuela suspended TAP Air Portugal flights in February after accusing the uncle of opposition leader Juan Guaído of transporting explosives into the country on a TAP flight.