A Venezuelan Coast Guard patrol boat capsized and sank following a collision with a Portuguese-flagged cruise ship in international waters in the early morning hours (local time) of Monday, March 30.
The collision between the unnamed patrol boat and RCGS Resolute, a vessel owned by Canada-based One Ocean Expeditions, occurred around 13.3 nautical miles off Isla de Tortuga.
Prior to the collision, the Venezuelan sailors reportedly radioed the crew of RCGS Resolute warning them that they were in Venezuelan territorial waters and that they were to proceed immediately to Puerto Moreno on Isla de Margarita for processing.
In a statement released on Wednesday, April 1, Columbia Cruise Services, which manages RCGS Resolute on behalf of One Ocean, said that the Venezuelan sailors fired warning shots into the air as their boat approached the larger vessel’s starboard side at a high rate of speed.
The Columbia statement added that the patrol boat repeatedly rammed RCGS Resolute‘s bow in an apparent attempt to turn the ship towards Venezuelan territorial waters.
Both vessels suffered damage in the incident, though the cruise ship’s seaworthiness was not affected. Meanwhile, the patrol boat began taking on water and ultimately keeled over and sank.
All 44 Venezuelan sailors who were on the patrol boat were eventually rescued.
The Venezuelan government maintains that it was the crew of RCGS Resolute who were to blame for the incident, saying that it was the cruise ship that had rammed into the patrol boat and not the other way around.
Commenting on the incident, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that the collision was an “act of terrorism and piracy” committed by the Portuguese vessel’s crew.
The two countries have since opened diplomatic channels to ease tensions and to clear up conflicting reports in connection with the incident.
Meanwhile, Columbia said that RCGS Resolute is currently moored in the port of Willemstad on the Dutch Caribbean Island of Curaçao as an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident is being carried out.
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