Carnival Horizon rendered aid to a small boat adrift north of Cuba, providing supplies to the occupants and permitting the craft to continue on its way, as was the occupants’ choice.
The encounter occurred on Monday, September 12, 2022, with five refugees impacted by the cruise ship’s actions.
Refugee Encounter Near Cuba
Tracking data shows that Carnival Horizon was slowly cruising east along the north coast of Cuba when the small craft was sighted.
Reports from passengers aboard the cruise ship noted that there were five individuals in the boat, which appeared to be drifting. Carnival Horizon rendered aid, providing food and water to the refugees before they continued on their way.
The cruise ship could have brought the individuals aboard, and they would have been transferred to the proper authorities, likely the United States Coast Guard. The individuals instead opted to remain with their craft and continue on their planned journey.
The cruise ship’s captain reported to guests that the rescue was a success, as aid was appropriately offered and the small boat was deemed safe for the refugees to continue.
The encounter happened at approximately 8 a.m. on September 12, while Carnival Horizon was enjoying a day at sea on its current 6-night Western Caribbean itinerary. After a brief delay to render aid, the cruise ship continued on its route.
There has been no change to Carnival Horizon‘s schedule, and the ship is spending Wednesday, September 13, at Ocho Rios, Jamaica as planned. The vessel departed Miami on Sunday, September 11, and will visit Grand Cayman and Cozumel later this week before returning to Miami on Saturday, September 17.
Carnival Horizon is a Vista-class vessel, weighing in at 133,500 gross tons and with the capacity to host 3,960 guests at double occupancy, and up to 4,977 passengers when fully booked with all berths filled.
Rescues on the Rise
Carnival cruise ships have been involved in a number of refugee rescues near Cuba in recent weeks.
Carnival Paradise rescued six Cuban migrants from a makeshift raft in late August, just three weeks after the same vessel rescued 20 refugees from an overloaded craft on July 31.
Carnival Sunrise performed a similar rescue on July 29, while the cruise line’s flagship, Mardi Gras, has performed three such rescues this year – two in June and one in January – assisting a total of more than 30 refugees.
Other cruise ships have also been involved in similar refugee encounters in 2022, including Celebrity Apex and Norwegian Breakaway.
By law and maritime tradition, cruise ships are bound to help anyone in distress at sea, no matter what the circumstances of those to be assisted. The Safety Of Life At Sea agreements (SOLAS) and the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea states:
“Every State shall require the master of a ship flying its flag, in so far as he can do so without serious damage to the ship, the crew, or the passengers… render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost [and] to proceed with all possible speed to the rescue of persons in distress, if informed of the need of assistance, in so far as such action may reasonably be expected of him.”
During these encounters, the cruise ship’s captain and officers will determine whether a small, drifting craft is in distress, and will offer aid. That aid may be providing food, water, or other supplies, or may include refueling a small vessel.
If a drifting craft is not deemed seaworthy or water conditions are too rough or otherwise unsafe, the refugees may be taken aboard the cruise ship. At that time, they would be offered food, water, shelter, and medical care as necessary.
With each encounter, the proper authorities are notified. If the refugees have been brought aboard the cruise ship, they will be turned over to authorities at the first available opportunity, which may mean a rendezvous with a Coast Guard vessel, or authorities will meet the refugees when the ship docks.
With political and economic turmoil on the rise in many areas, it is sadly not surprising that refugee encounters are becoming more common in recent months.