A Venezuelan Navy vessel opened fire on a German cruise ship but sank after it sustained “severe damages” while ramming the luxury liner on Monday morning.
The incident took place near La Tortuga Island, a Venezuelan federal dependency, on March 30th as the RCGS Resolute, (a 123-meter-long cruise ship equipped for polar expeditions) was performing routine maintenance in international waters off the coast of Venezuela on Monday morning, according to a statement by Columbia Cruise Services, which manages the ship. Soon, a Venezuelan patrol boat approached, demanding that the ship divert its course to a Venezuelan port. The patrol boat then opened fire on the Resolute and repeatedly rammed it.
Columbia Cruise Services said the Resolute remained in the area for more than an hour and contacted rescue co-ordinators on the Dutch Caribbean Island of Curacao. All attempts to contact the Naiguata went unanswered and the Resolute eventually sailed to Willemstad on Curacao, it added.
A statement from the Hamburg-based company said that shortly after midnight, the Naiguata radioed the Resolute, questioning its intentions, and ordered the captain to follow it to a port on Isla Margarita, to the East.
“While the master was in contact with the head office, gunshots were fired and, shortly thereafter, the navy vessel approached the starboard side at speed… and purposely collided with the RCGS Resolute,” it added.
“The navy vessel continued to ram the starboard bow in an apparent attempt to turn the ship’s head towards Venezuelan territorial waters.”
The Resolute repeatedly offered help to its crew, but the Venezuelan sailors did not answer the Resolute‘s hails, according to the statement. The cruise ship ultimately left the area after an international maritime authority told the Resolutethat its assistance was not necessary. The ship soon safely docked at its intended destination of Curaçao.
The Venezuelan government acknowledged the naval encounter but claimed the Resolute was in Venezuelan territorial waters during the incident. CNN reported the country’s defense ministry suggested that the Resolute carried foreign mercenaries trying to invade Venezuela.
A search and rescue operation rescued all men aboard the patrol boat, according to the Venezuelan government.
President Maduro said an investigation had been launched and he expected “maximum collaboration” from authorities in Curacao.