Friday, April 3, 2020

Ice Class Cruise Ship Attacked and Rammed in International Waters

Naval Patrol Boat Sinks After Act of Belligerence
Shipping News Feature

VENEZUELA – The country, suffering under sanctions due to the US and a batch of other nations claiming its government has no legitimacy, lost one of its naval vessels this week in the most bizarre of circumstances when it deliberately rammed a cruise ship.

In the early hours of March 30 the RCGS Resolute a 1,200 dwt, 125 metre vessel operated by One Ocean Expeditions of Canada was drifting around 13 nautical miles off the Isla de Tortuga, reportedly undergoing maintenance to one of her two engines when approached by the Venezuelan patrol vessel GC-23 Naiguata. Reports say her port engine was idling to maintain station in international waters.

The cruise ship was ordered to follow the naval vessel to the port of Puerto Moreno, Isla de Margarita. There remains confusion over why the Venezuelan authorities were so insistent on the Resolute diverting from her planned schedule, but what is certain is that the master declined to change his vessel’s itinerary whilst he consulted with his home office.

Some reports say there was then gunfire from the 80 metre, Guaicamacuto‐class patrol vessel, presumably warning shots in an attempt to divert her, however what is certain is that the naval captain underestimated her 1A Super ice class hull rating and a bow specially strengthened by her Finnish builders to tackle the polar regions.

Having failed to persuade her to change course the Naiguata apparently attempted to nudge the bows of the Resolute by ramming her in a series of manoeuvres resulting in minor damage to the cruise vessel but serious leaks to the patrol boats bow, serious enough for her to break off the attack and subsequently sink.

According to the operator the cruise ship waited at the scene as the naval vessel was sinking, leaving after an hour when given permission to do so by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) Curaçao, the international body which oversees any maritime emergencies. This however is not the account given by the Venezuelan authorities, which in an initial statement said:

"The action of the ship Resolute is considered cowardly and criminal, since it did not attend to the rescue of the crew, in breach of the international regulations that regulate the rescue of life at sea.”

More was to come, with comments now being attributed to Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro that the cruise ship was possibly transporting mercenaries with the intention of discharging them at sea so they could ‘attack military bases in Venezuela’.

An air of mystery surrounds this incident and one has to doubt if the full truth will ever emerge. The Resolute had reportedly been arrested in Buenos Aires after cancelling her last cruise in October 2019 following accusations of debts owed. She had allegedly been docked in the Argentinian port of Puerto Madryn unable to fuel for her charter due to lack of funds.

Previous to this in 2019 contractors alleging non-payment had exercised a maritime lien on the Resolute which resulted in her being held in port in Halifax, Nova Scotia until the accounts were settled. Bosses at the firm said they were aiming at a financial restructuring. On this latest voyage there were apparently no passengers aboard and the ship was headed for Willemstad, Curaçao.

The latest news on the One Ocean Expeditions website is dated September 2019 giving the impression that the ship has been indeed in some sort of limbo. For its part the company is now advertising cruises co-branded with the Royal Canadian Geographic Society (RCGS) commencing in Costa Rica on April 20. The two have previously partnered in expeditions such as the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition, which lead to the successful find of Sir John Franklin’s ship, the HMS Erebus.

Photo: The Resolute courtesy of One Ocean Expeditions.