A Venezuelan Navy ship has sunk after colliding with the ice-strengthened hull of an expedition cruise ship earlier this week.
The incident took place March 30, 2020 in international waters off the island of La Tortuga.
Both sides are now blaming each other for the accident.
Columbia Cruise Services says its expedition vessel RCGS Resolute with 32 crew members and no passengers was subject to an act of aggression by the Venezuelan Navy as the vessel drifting off the coast of the island while conducting some routine engine maintenance prior to its arrival at Willemstad, Curaçao.
“Shortly after midnight, 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. As the RCGS RESOLUTE was sailing in international waters at that time, the Master wanted to reconfirm this particular request resulting into a serious deviation from the scheduled vessel’s route with the company DPA,” a statement from Columbia Cruise Services said.
“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. The navy vessel continued to ram the starboard bow in an apparent attempt to turn the ship’s head towards Venezuelan territorial waters,” it added.
The Venezuelan Navy called the Resolute’s actions cowardly and criminal, accusing the Resolute of not stopping to attend the rescue.
The Navy said the surveillance ship was Naiguatá was conducting maritime traffic control when it was struck by the Resolute.
Columbia Cruise Service says the Resolute remained on scene for over an hour and alerted the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) Curaçao, which eventually ordered the Resolute to proceed to Willemstad, where it remains docked.
The Naiguatá is an 80-meter littoral surveillance ship belonging to the Venezuelan Navy.