SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) agents and Field Operations officers completed this weekend the agency response because of the aftermath of the fire inside the M/V Caribbean Fantasy ferry on Wednesday, during its inbound approach into the San Juan port of entry.
CBP Marine Units from San Juan and Fajardo responded to a report Wednesday indicating that the ferry caught fire in the vicinity of Punta Salinas, Toa Baja, 2 miles off the bay of San Juan, in the islands’ northern coast.
During the early morning incident, the ferry was carrying 512 people, 387 passengers and 125 crewmembers.
“Our Marine Interdiction Agents are always ready to respond to distress calls at sea and any incident where human life can be in danger,” indicated Johnny Morales, Director of the Caribbean Air and Marine Branch.
At arrival on scene CBP Agents observed black smoke coming from the stacks of the ferry, an air slide deployed form the side of the vessel, and life rafts being deployed.
The US Coast Guard was on scene and the Marine unit assisted with the recovery of a life raft that had lost propulsion. The CBP vessel towed the life raft to the Pier 6 at the San Juan Bay, where the City of San Juan had established a command center, with local and federal agencies, in order to provide assistance and first aid to the recovered passengers.
CBP vessels were involved in saving eighty two (82) lives from the burning ferry.
“Our San Juan CBP officers interact with the passengers, cargo and crew of this ferry almost on a daily basis for inbound and outbound operations. Once we were notified of the emergency, Area Port Director Edwin Cruz reported to Pier 6 to ensure proper coordination with other agencies.” indicated Marcelino Borges, Director of Field Operations for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. “It was a very unfortunate event, but the rapid response and great coordination of all emergency personnel, first responders and private citizens that helped in the process, as well as, the cooperation of the affected passengers and crew resulted in a successful outcome.”
Within the incident command post, CBP Officers facilitated the admission process of all 512 persons on board the ferry, while the persons injured received treatment.
USCG authorized Sunday the vessel to be moved to Pier 15 in San Juan. Inspection and processing of the cargo and vehicles on board by CBP Officers and Agriculture Specialist, is impending.
M/V Caribbean Fantasy is 27k ton Ro-Ro passenger ship, flagged under Panama, which traverses the Mona Passage between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, three times a week, transporting passengers, cargo and vehicles.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.