Colombian Navy responds to threats against “Maui Ocean” near Barú

The Colombian Navy responded to threats to the crew of Maui Ocean while docked near Barú. Photo: Armada

Ocean-faring sailors are members of a global community, especially when it comes to deep-sea dangers and risks they face navigating foreign waters. This is what happened when the crew of the MAUI OCEAN and passengers were threatened at knife-point by a gang from the peninsula of Barú after they refused to purchase a “tourist package.”

The Spanish nationals on the vessel were repeatedly intimidated on Sunday and early news reports claimed the tourists had been taken hostage.

The MAUI OCEAN had dropped anchor near Barú, some 40 kilometers southwest of Cartagena as it was sailing the Colombian Caribbean. The Colombian Armada, through the Cartagena Coast Guard Station, responded to a “threat to the crew of the vessel” and dispatched a team to verify the situation and the integrity of the sailors. With information provided by the seafarers, the Coast Guard conducted a search of the area for the 12 individuals who attempted to illegally board the MAUI OCEAN.

“We experienced knife attacks, and there was a lot of violence and death threats from three boats. They threatened our passengers, who were a group in total of 25 Spaniards, telling them that if they jumped into the water, they would be killed by the propellers of the boats they were on. They were close to boarding our vessels, but ultimately didn’t do it,” stated one of the passengers to Cartagena’s El Universal.

Tourists visiting Barú, and the nearby Rosario islands frequently denounce on social media that locals are excessively over-charging visitors for food, beverages and public services. The tourism hot-spots of Cholón, Playa Blanca and Playa Secreta are popular day-destinations for sailors visiting Cartagena.

On May 10, 2022, Paraguayan anti-drug prosecutor Marcelo Pecci was gunned down on a beach in Barú while enjoying his honeymoon. Pecci’s murder was committed in broad daylight at the Decameron resort before the assailants fled the scene. Pecci’s wife Marcela Aguilera and hotel guests witnessed how the two hitmen arrived at the beach in jet-skis before shooting Pecci in the face and back.

News that foreigners are being intimidated by locals does not help Cartagena’s image with international visitors, especially as President Gustavo Petro wants to attract some 7 million tourists every year to the country.