Norwegian Navy officer denies negligence over collision with tanker

A Norwegian naval officer denied negligence in the lead-up to a collision between a warship he commanded and an oil tanker in 2018, in which the military vessel sank.

An officer in the Norwegian Navy was scheduled to stand trial on Monday January 16th, accused of negligence that led to the 2018 collision between a warship he was commanding – the Helge Ingstad – and fully loaded crude oil tanker Sola TS (IMO 9724350). The military vessel sank and had to be written off. In a report issued in 2019 by the armed services the cost was estimated at up to NOK13bn ($1.3bn).

The incident occurred near a major North Sea oil export terminal, resulting in shutdowns of parts of Norway’s petroleum production. There was no leak from the oil tanker.

The defendant officer was in charge on the bridge of the Helge Ingstad when the accident occurred.

Prosecutor Magne Kvamme Sylta said in the charge as that the officer “did not display caution and did not take the precautions that safe navigation requires”, while the defendant has claimed that he had been singled out for blame unfairly and would plead not guilty, his lawyer, Christian Lundin, told Norwegian news agency NTB.

“He is looking forward to the start of the lawsuit and delivering his account of what happened,” Lundin said on Monday.

Recordings of communication between the two vessels showed that the slow-moving Sola asked the speedier navy vessel to alter its course several times or risk collision, but the request was declined by the Ingstad, which feared getting too close to shore.

A commission investigating the collision later said the brightly lit Sola TS may have been difficult to distinguish from the nearby terminal from where it had set off, and that this could have confused the Ingstad crew as to where the naval ship really was in relation to the shore.

A video recording from the tanker showed sparks flying as the two collided, tearing a gash in the side of the warship, which had to be recycled as scrap metal. The tanker suffered only minor damage.

At the time of the accident 2017-built, Malta-flagged, 62,557 gt Sola TS was 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. That ownership and management structure remains in place today. It is still entered with Britannia.