Cruise ship ignored stranded fisherman

From NPR, I heard this highly disturbing story about a luxury cruise ship that seemed to have deliberately ignored a drifting fishing boat that had three people in it and which had sought help. Although passengers noticed the boat and brought it to the attention of the ship’s crew, the fishermen were not picked up. Two of the fisherman later died but the third survived and was eventually rescued by the Ecuadorean coast guard.

If it is true that the ship’s crew deliberately ignored people in distress, it would not only be a violation of international maritime law, it would be an act of shocking callousness.

How could anyone do that?


  1. thewhollynone says

    Fishing boat or drug smugglers or pirates? How does the cruiseship captain know? The proper response is to notify the Coast Guard authorities.

  2. Alverant says

    Oh no 3 people vs a cruise ship! Oh we’re SO outnumbered!

    Notifing the coast guard would have been the least they could do especially if they were worried about pirates. What should have been mentioned is that the cruise ship captain LIED about spotting the stranded fishing boat (he claimed it was part of a fleet and they asked the cruise ship to move to avoid damaging their nets) and it should be emphaized that if action was taken, if only alerting the authorities, chances are all three would have been saved instead of being left out to sea to die a long painful death.

    The most likely answer why the cruise ship captain didn’t stop, the fishermen were poor.

  3. unbound says

    Story at the Guardian says that the captain claims he was never informed. The 3 witnesses talked to crew members who claimed they were going to tell the captain. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any information on whether the crew members actually did tell the captain the information.

    @thewhollynone – Actually, cruise ships do help out somewhat frequently in this situation. It was clear from the article that there was no threat.

  4. jamessweet says

    So it seems the problem here may have been that the crew who were informed did not escalate the issue?

    It’s possible that this was a “I thought somebody else was probably taking care of it” sort of thing…

  5. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    How could anyone do that?

    Easy .. he has a schedule to keep, and the paperwork for bringing in more passengers than you left with is really burdensome.

  6. left0ver1under says

    In the item, one passenger said she contacted the US Coast Guard. Given their interest in stopping drugs, why didn’t they investigate and check out the boat? Or were they equally callous since the three men weren’t smugglers?

    If someone had reported the men on the boat as smugglers, they other two might still be alive. I’m not suggesting it’s a good idea because they might have been shot at, but at least somebody would have come to check on them, eventually leading to their rescue.

  7. slc1 says

    It is my information that this is a problem largely confined to the Caribbean. This incident took place in the Pacific, several hundred miles off the coast of Panama. Not too likely that there are hijackers or drug smugglers in those parts.

    However, I assume that the cruise ship had firearms aboard and could have taken on the crew of the fishing boat with armed crew members standing by in case of trouble. I have to agree with Prof. Singham here, contrary to the vile comment by Mr. leftover1under; this seems to me to be a dereliction of duty on the part of the officers and captain of the cruise ship. I don’t know if there are any charges that can be brought against the miscreants but they should, at the least, be given the heave ho by the cruise line owners.

  8. slc1 says

    I hate to get into a pissing contest with Mr. leftover1under (aka Don Williams?) but the Coast Guard might have responded but were given incorrect location coordinates by the passenger.

    Like the Zimmerman/martin case, we don’t know the full story of what happened here as we sit here today and news reports by the lame stream media are notoriously inaccurate in the early days of an investigation.

  9. Art says

    As I understand it operators of vessels are required to “render assistance”. What this entails depends on the particulars of the situation. At the very least this would require the crew to contact the proper authorities and report a boat that seemed to be in trouble, adrift, and the ship’s GPS coordinates when they saw them. This is dead simple to do. You note the time, a description of the boat, set a way-point on your GPS, and feed that information to the CG. There is a requirement that every ship maintain a watch and local awareness so the crew should have been well aware of the boat.

    Rendering assistance more widely means attempting to communicate and changing course as needed to render aid. Offsetting this is the concern that a ship rendering assistance is not required to put itself in danger. With a large number of passengers and the ship itself of primary concern to the captain the benefits have to be balanced.

    There is some small, but significant, concern they might be pirates or malicious so there is no requirement that he ship turn about and pull up along side. Justifying a delay over what might be exactly nothing to the ship owners can get dicey.

    But none of those concerns, reasonable or not, vacate the requirement that they render assistance. Calling in the situation to the CG is simply not a significant burden. A minutes work with a pencil and a radio call is not too much to ask of a professional mariner.

  10. Scott says

    Cruise ships have well-armed security on board that surely would have been able to deal with three individuals. Even if they suspected them of being terrorists, they could have launched a lifeboat, at the very least.

  11. Xander says

    No, the correct response is to attempt rescue. Ignoring them is not only illegal (ships have a duty to respond to those in distress) but also immoral. It doesn’t what IF they were criminals, it is called innocent until proven guilty. You can’t refuse to rescue someone because they MIGHT be criminals. There was NO reason to believe they were whatsoever.

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