SAR called after Hurtigruten ship loses power off Norwegian Coast

Hurtigruten coastal cruise ship Kong Harald (IMO 9039119) lost propulsion power while travelling along a difficult portion of the Norwegian coastline during the evening of August 24th. A search-and-rescue response from Norwegian maritime authorities, fishing vessels, and an OSV in the area was implemented. After drifting and later anchoring the cruise ship was able to recover. Norwegian authorities are investigating the incident.

Shortly before 21:00 the 11,200 gt Kong Harald issued a distress call reporting that it had lost propulsion power and was drifting toward the coast. At the time the vessel was in an area known as Hustadvika, travelling southbound from Kristiansund to Molde. It was the same area where in 2019 another cruise ship, the Viking Sky, also suffered a power failure and numerous passengers were injured while the vessel was tossed in heavy seas before a rescue could be affected.

The Kong Harald was carrying 236 passengers at the time, along with 70 crew. Several passengers reported to the local media seeing black smoke before the ship lost power. Seas were reported to be very rough with poor visibility and a stiff gale.

With no propulsion power, the captain used the vessel’s thrusters to manoeuvre it into a safer position to await assistance and they were eventually able to anchor.

The SAR operation was made more complicated by the difficult weather. Four helicopters were dispatched, plus five vessels from the Norwegian coastguard. Another rescue vessel, the Oyvon, which was carrying a crew of four grounded, damaging its keel and requiring its own rescue.

After about 45 minutes the Kong Harald reported that it had been able to restart one of its main engines. The passenger ship proceeded to Molde, escorted by the OSV KL Saltfjord, which had also offered to provide towing assistance if needed. The Kong Harald spent the night on the dock in Molde. On August 25th the Norwegian Maritime Directorate boarded the ship and put together the events leading up to the power failure.

Before the Kong Harald departed Kristiansund earlier in the evening, engineers discovered a leak in the port main engine’s cooling water system and took the engine offline for repairs. The repairs took longer than expected. Operating on its starboard main engine, after 22:00 an alarm sounded for high exhaust temperatures on the starboard main engine, and efforts to reduce the torque were not successful. At 22:39 the starboard main engine shut down, leaving the Kong Harald with no propulsion power at all. Investigators have determined that the problem was caused by a worn control arm in the fuel system.

The Norwegian Maritime Directorate reported that the worn part had been replaced today in both engines and they then tested the ship. DNV as the vessel’s class society also attended and the Kong Harald was certified and resumed its voyage on the afternoon on August 25th.

The Norwegian authorities now want to investigate were the maintenance routines and why the worn part was not detected before failure. They were also investigating the risk assessments and the process taken before the departure from Kristiansund, especially in light of having one motor offline for repairs.

In 2020 Hurtigruten’s risk assessment process was criticized in the investigations after the Covid-19 outbreak aboard one of its expedition cruise ships. The Norwegian Maritime Directorate also said it would hand over its findings to Norway’s Accident Investigation Board.

1993-built, Norway-flagged, 11,204 gt Kong Harald is owned and managed by Hurtigruten Cruise AS of Tromso, Norway. It is entered with Gard P&I on behalf of Hurtigruten Cruise AS.