Helge Ingstad crew failed to close doors and hatches when they abandoned ship

The crew of the Norwegian navy vessel KNM Helge Ingstad failed to close doors and hatches when they abandoned ship after colliding with tanker Sola TS (IMO 9724350) on November 8th 2018 (IMN November 9th 2018).

The incident occurred in the North Sea north of Bergen, Norway and the Norwegian Navy frigate was eventually written off.

The investigators found that if the doors and hatches had been closed the frigate could have been kept from becoming a total loss.

(Havari-kommisjonen) had some harsh words for the Norwegian Navy in its second report on the collision. Not only was the event hugely expensive – the frigate was valued at more than €400m – but if the crew had been better trained, it could have been avoided:

The investigation showed that efforts to prevent the frigate from sinking and prioritization of the right measures could have helped to gain control of the situation on board. For the crew to be able to consider actions other than those that were taken, however, they would have needed a better understanding of the frigate’s stability characteristics. Furthermore, they would have needed additional competence, training and practice, and better decision support tools than those that were available to them. Given the crew’s knowledge at the time, the situation they faced and the prevailing circumstances, it was, said the commission, “understandable that a decision was taken to evacuate the frigate rather than put human life and health at risk”.

The report noted that the Navy did not provide the crew with a “good enough understanding to be able to handle the scenario they found themselves in on the night of the accident.”

The commission’s first report on the loss of the ship reported on a sequences of mistakes and misunderstandings on board the frigate before it crashed into the Sola TS, which was leaving Equinor’s Sture terminal northwest of Bergen at the time.

The first report also found fault with those in charge of maritime traffic in the area at the time and with the lighting on board the tanker, which the frigate’s crew confused with the lighting on the refinery.

The second report covers the response to the incident rather than what led up to it in the first place.

Norway’s defence ministry and Naval officials had praised the captain and crew for evacuating the vessel safely with no loss of life and with only few minor injuries.

The commission concluded that its most serious findings were linked to a lack of training and instruction to a higher level than that received by the crew on board the Helge Ingstad.

“The crew viewed the water flowing in as so extensive that the vessel would be lost anyway. Our assessment shows that a shutdown could have hindered the capsizing,” the commission said.

The Helge Ingstad grounded shortly after the collision and this caused even more water to flow in. That could have further raised already high stress levels among officers and crew on board, the commission found, particularly since the collision also cut all electricity on board.

The crew on the bridge believed that they had lost control over the vessel after the collision. The grounding happened 10 minutes later. It took about an hour to get all 137 people off the vessel.

Since then, both the commission and the defence department’s own investigation concluded that it remained theoretically possible to operate the vessel’s machinery.

Kristian Haugnes of the commission said that “they did not understand that various systems were still functioning”.

Naval officials responded that the new report would help strengthen safety at sea. Navy chief Rune Andersen said that “this is an important report. The most important thing for us after this accident has been to gain experience and examine all sides of it. There’s a lot to learn here”.

2017-built, Malta-flagged, 62,557 gt Sola TS is owned by Twitt Navigation care of manager Tsakos Energy Navigation Ltd (TEN Ltd) of Athens, Greece. It is entered with Britannia Club on behalf of Twitt Navigation Ltd.

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