Norwegian Cruise Line Ship Rescues Overloaded Boat

Norwegian Breakaway rescued approximately 20 refugees from a small boat near Cuba on Thursday, August 18, while returning from Cozumel.

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On the last day of a 5-night sailing, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway assisted and ultimately rescued approximately 20 refugees from a small, overloaded craft in considerable distress.

The ship’s bridge crew spotted the boat, contacted the proper authorities, and brought the refugees onboard the cruise ship.

Norwegian Breakaway Rescue

Norwegian Breakaway was enjoying a sea day en route from Cozumel, Mexico, back to the ship’s homeport of Miami, Florida, when the small boat was spotted adrift approximately 30 miles west of Cuba on Thursday, August 18, 2022.

The cruise ship’s captain, Andreas Karlstroem, assessed the situation and determined that the refugees could not remain in the small boat, which appeared overloaded with 20-30 individuals crowded into inadequate space.

Observers reported that the refugees appeared to be bailing out the boat, which would indicate even greater distress.

One of Norwegian Breakaway‘s lifeboats was dispatched to the refugees’ boat to transfer everyone to the cruise ship. The entire transfer took approximately 3.5 hours, moving cautiously to ensure safety for both the refugees as well as the assisting crew members.

Once aboard, the refugees were given food, water, and medical care as needed.

The empty refugee craft was left adrift as the cruise ship resumed its journey. It is unknown as to whether or not all the refugees’ possessions were able to be brought onboard the cruise ship.

The U.S. Coast Guard was notified of the situation as the rescue was in progress and will take responsibility for the refugees, who will likely be returned to Cuba. Authorities were waiting when the cruise ship returned to Miami.

The 145,655-gross-ton Norwegian Breakaway continued on its return to Miami, arriving back as scheduled on Friday, August 19.

Many Rescues in 2022

There have been many different refugee rescues made just this year, with cruise ships from different lines offering assistance whenever a vessel is spotted in distress.

For some incidents, the refugees are taken aboard the cruise ship if it is determined that their original craft is unstable.

In other cases, the cruise ship may provide extra food, water, or fuel so the original craft can continue on its way, if it can safely do so. There is no requirement that individuals from a smaller craft must be accommodated on a cruise ship.

Carnival Cruise Ship Rescue
Photo Courtesy: Vici Sheffield

Less than three weeks ago, on July 31, Carnival Paradise rescued at least 20 refugees from a similarly overcrowded small boat in the same general area west of Cuba, and on July 29, Carnival Sunrise rescued 12 Cuban refugees adrift south of Key West.

Carnival Cruise Line’s flagship, Mardi Gras, participated in two separate refugee rescue incidents in June, while Carnival Magic, Celebrity Cruise Line’s Celebrity Apex, and Royal Caribbean International’s Allure of the Seas have all also affected similar rescues this year.

Most incidents are in similar regions near Cuba. The rescued individuals all receive appropriate medical care, but are returned to their home country by the U.S. Coast Guard.

This is a busy time of year for such incidents, as relatively mild weather before the busiest time of the Atlantic hurricane season makes it easier for small, less reliable craft to sail further distances.

This makes it more likely that refugees may make it safely to their desired destinations, but should a storm develop quickly, the situation could quickly become dire for anyone stranded in a small craft.

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