The Portuguese-flagged RCGS Resolute said the naval vessel Naiguata also fired shots in an “act of aggression in international waters”. The collision in the Caribbean left the cruise ship, which has a reinforced hull for sailing in icy waters, with barely a scratch but the military vessel was badly damaged and foundered and sank after the incident.
Although the Resolutesuffered minor damage, the patrol boat began taking on water after hitting its bulbous bow
Columbia Cruise Services
Venezuela, which has since accused the Resolute of “aggression and piracy”, said Naiguata’s crew had all been rescued but did not give details.
Officials in Caracas also said they “did not rule out” the cruise ship “was transporting mercenaries to attack military bases in Venezuela”.
President Nicolás Maduro has previously accused the USA and other countries of plotting to overthrow him.
The bizarre incident took place near La Tortuga Island, a Venezuelan federal dependency, on March 30.
Columbia Cruise Services, which operates the Resolute, said the cruise ship had been carrying out routine engine maintenance in international waters more than 13 nautical miles from La Tortuga.
A statement from the Hamburg-based company said the Naiguata radioed the Resolute, questioning its intentions and ordering the captain to follow it to a port on Isla Margarita.
The statement said: “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.
“The navy vessel continued to ram the starboard bow in an apparent attempt to turn the ship’s head towards Venezuelan territorial waters.
“Although the Resolute – a purpose-built polar expedition vessel – suffered minor damage, the patrol boat began taking on water after hitting its bulbous bow.”
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 Curaçao.
It said all attempts to contact the Naiguata went unanswered and the Resolute eventually sailed to Willemstad on Curaçao.
A statement by the Venezuelan military accused the Resolute of “cowardly and criminal” behaviour, “since it did not attend to the rescue of the crew”.
Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino López accused the Resolute of ramming the vessel, “which caused its sinking”.
President Maduro said an investigation had been launched and he expected “maximum collaboration” from authorities in Curaçao.
Twitter user Canocola said: “It often seems that the golden age of naval idiocy has disappeared forever.
“I’m therefore pleased to note that the Venezuelan patrol vessel Naiguatá has managed to recapture some of this spirit by fighting the dumbest action of the 21st century.”
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