A Venezuelan Navy patrol boat deliberately rammed into a German cruise ship in international waters on Thursday in an unprovoked act of aggression, before sinking as a result of the damage.
Crew members of the RCGS Resolute cruise liner, which was heading to Haiti’s Isla de Tortuga for routine maintenance, said that the patrol boat fired gunshots before “purposely colliding” with their ship after it refused orders to sail towards Venezuela’s Isla Margarita.
Despite having no military purpose, the Resolute is equipped with a fortified hull for protection during ice expeditions, and far greater damage was consequently inflicted on Venezuela’s Naiguata navy boat as a result of the collision.
In a statement, the Hamburg-based Columbia Cruise Services confirmed the incident occurred in international waters, around 13.3 nautical miles from their destination. After the Venezuelans accused the Resolute of violating international waters, the captain requested time to contact company authorities. The Naiguata then began shooting at the vessel.
“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 and purposely collided with the RCGS Resolute,” the statement read. “The navy vessel continued to ram the starboard bow in an apparent attempt to turn the ship’s head towards Venezuelan territorial waters.”
The company explained that the attack did little damage to its own vessel, but the damage on the Naiguata was so severe its crew had to call out a rescue team from the Dutch island of Curaçao:
While the Resolute sustained minor damages, not affecting the vessel’s seaworthiness, it occurs that the navy vessel suffered severe damages while making contact with the ice-strengthened bulbous bow of the ice-class expedition cruise vessel Resolute and started to take water.
Ready to support anytime, the Resolute remained for over one hour in the vicinity of the scene and reached out to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre [in] Curacao. This is an international body that oversees any maritime emergencies. All attempts to contact those on board the navy ship have been left unanswered.
Only after receiving the order to resume passage full ahead by the MRCC and that further assistance is not required, the Resolute, currently safely moored in the port of Willemstad, continued sailing towards her destination at Curacao. A full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident will now be carried out.
Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro described the incident as “an act of terrorism and piracy” by the Resolute, and ordered an investigation.
“If it had been a tourist ship, it would not have appeared to want to attack,” he declared.
The Venezuelan Defense Ministry warned they would “undertake the corresponding legal actions,” and acknowledged that the Naiguata had suffered “damage of great magnitude,” but did not reveal that it had sunk.
“The action of the ship Resolute is considered cowardly and criminal, since it did not attend the rescue of the crew, in breach of international regulations that regulate the rescue of life at sea,” the ministry said in a statement. “Our immediate search and rescue work, together with the professional and courageous performance of our personnel, allowed the full rescue of the crew.”
Although headquartered in Germany, the ship was sailing under a Portuguese flag. According to some reports, the clash was linked to a recent dispute between Venezuela and Portugal in which the socialist regime accused the Portuguese airline TAP of allowing rightful President Juan Guaido’s uncle to bring explosives on a flight to Caracas. The incident led to TAP being given a 90-day suspension from flying into the country.