The P&O Cruises ship Britannia has assisted with intensive rescue efforts near St. Kitts after a small boat capsized. The cruise ship helped to rescue 16 individuals while 13 are confirmed deceased and 3 others remain missing.
The incident is a complex one that also has potential political complications, but the cruise ship’s role has been protecting life rather than any political connection.
Britannia Helps Rescue 13 From Sinking Ship
A 30-foot boat was 12 nautical miles (15 miles / 24 kilometers) northeast off the coast of St. Kitts when it began to have trouble and capsized, and it wasn’t until 3 a.m. on Tuesday, March 28, 2023 that the imperiled boat was spotted by a passing yacht.
The craft was in obvious distress and “dangerously overcrowded” according to local news reports.
Emergency authorities were immediately notified to render aid, and Britannia diverted course to assist the local coast guard in the rescue efforts. The cruise ship remained on site to continue to search for survivors, but ultimately it was confirmed that 13 people of the original 32 onboard had perished. Three further individuals remain missing.
“The Britannia was the lead ship to help out in the efforts with the yacht, which capsized in the early hours of the morning,” said a spokesperson for P&O Cruises. “The incident has now been handed over to the St Kitts and Nevis coastguard.”
Britannia has now continued on her sailing, a 14-night repositioning sailing between Bridgetown, Barbados and Southampton, England, that departed Barbados on Friday, March 24.
Prior to the incident, the cruise ship had already visited St. Lucia and St. Kitts, and was en route to Antigua for its next port of call on Tuesday, March 28.
The ship’s next port of call after Antigua is Ponta Delgada in the Azores of Portugal, after five days at sea. There is no reported delay to that arrival, since the cruise ship has adequate days to make up the time lost in the search and rescue efforts.
The voyage will conclude in Southampton on Friday, April 7, and Britannia will remain homeported there through the summer and early autumn, offering a variety of Mediterranean, British Isles, and Norwegian Fjords cruises, along with select Northern Europe and Scandinavia sailings as well as visits to Spain and Portugal.
Britannia is a Royal-class vessel that entered service for P&O Cruises in 2015, having been christened by Queen Elizabeth II. The 143,730-gross-ton ship has a guest capacity of 3,647 passengers, and also hosts nearly 1,400 crew members to provide excellent service.
The capsized vessel, which had been stolen in Antigua, was reportedly traveling between Antigua and St. Thomas, with individuals onboard seeking refuge in the US Virgin Islands.
No information is available about the motivations of those onboard. Some individuals are reported as Antiguan and others are from Cameroon, but exact details about nationalities or citizenship status are not available.
Regardless of any political, economic, or social considerations, any vessel at sea is obligated to render aid to another vessel in distress. This was obviously the case for this small craft with so many people aboard, the capsizing, and survivors clinging to the hull of the boat.
Once the emergency has passed, rescued individuals are turned over to appropriate authorities for next steps, which can vary greatly depending on the individuals involved and their unique circumstances.
Cruise Hive commends the actions of Britannia‘s crew, for without the ship’s assistance there would undoubtedly have been greater loss of life in this already tragic incident.