A water taxi carrying more than 60 tourists was stranded in Chetumal on Wednesday night after departing Belize. After battling strong waves, the captain of the boat notified the Coast Guard who towed the boat back to shore, and no passengers were harmed in the frightening incident.
A ferry carrying at least 68 passengers, of which nearly all were tourists, was stranded in Chetumal bay after departing from Belize. Authorities have begun a preliminary investigation to determine the cause of the incident, which remains unknown for now. The boat departed from the popular San Pedro island in Belize as it began its journey back to Chetumal. However, at a distance of 4 miles from the Quintana Roo capital, the vessel ran into problems, and after initially attempting to overcome navigation issues, asked for assistance from the Mexican Coast guard.
The Mexican Coast Guard was quick to mobilize, sending patrol vessels to assist the stranded boat as well as its passengers. It took several minutes for authorities to locate the ferry, and after an initial examination, units from the Coast Guard determined that there was no acute risk of sinking. Strong waves were reported at the time of the incident, which probably contributed to the urgency of the issue.
After performing routine protocol to secure the watercraft, the Mexican Coast Guard towed the ferry safely back to Chetumal’s port, where passengers received medical attention. Personnel from the Red Cross were on site to attend to all passengers, who were questioned about their well-being and checked for any injuries. Fortunately, none of the occupants reported any injuries. Many, however, were frightened and exhausted after the long ordeal.
Maritime authorities have begun to investigate the cause of the incident, but little information has been made public so far. Among the possible causes are technical issues, human error, as well as weather and sea conditions. At the time of the incident, poor visibility and darkness may have contributed to difficulty finding the coast.
The vessel, named Eva Bay and operated by Water Jet International, was carrying tourists back to Chetumal after departing from Belize. The company operates various aquatic taxis that transport tourists between Quintana Roo’s capital and nearby Belize, including Caye Caulker and San Pedro, both being popular resort destinations. The journey takes around two hours on the service, costing around $70 per person.
Although generally safe, boating accidents have occurred in the Mexican Caribbean before. Most notably, last year three tourists died, including one child when a boat sank en route from Cancun to Isla Mujeres when powerful winds and currents caused a vessel to lose control and sink.
Determining the factors that led to Wednesday’s incident will be key since water transportation services are ubiquitous across the Mexican Caribbean. Several popular islands – including Isla Mujeres and Holbox – are home to hundreds of resorts. Many of the islands can only be reached by ferry. Although larger boating companies abide by strict regulations, several hundred companies operate informal boats that lack adequate safety measures and equipment, including life jackets. The Quintana Roo Nautical Association has brought up the issue before, urging tourists to make sure their vessel operates legally.
Belize re-opened its border with Mexico earlier this year following a two-year closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The country, which is also home to stunning Caribbean beaches, Maya ruins, and plenty of resorts is a popular choice for people staying in the southern parts of Quintana Roo. Perfect for a day trip, many people visit nearby Belize island on boats, where they can spend a day exploring beaches.
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