Damaged Norwegian Frigate Patched and Refloated
Six weeks after she was raised, the wrecked frigate Helge Ingstad has been patched with steel plates and allowed to float on her own hull.
"This phase has focused on temporarily sealing the damage in the hull which is below the waterline by welding steel plates over the damaged areas," said Commander Captain Håvard Mathisen, project manager for Forsvaret Defense Materials. "We have thus freed the chartered barge, and can avail ourselves of existing infrastructure at the Navy's main base."
After she was relaunched from the semisubmersible barge used to salvage her, the frigate was towed to Haakonsvern, the Royal Norwegian Navy's largest base. The work of inventorying the damage to the vessel's systems will continue in drydock at the base, and this inspection will inform a decision whether to repair the vessel or replace her. Most analysts expect that the damage from months under water will be too severe to allow repair to be an economical option.
In the meantime, the service intends to maintain the same operational presence by doubling the op-tempo of the frigate Otto Sverdrup. "Helge Ingstad's crew will now return to [service] through a two-crew solution on the frigate KNM Otto Sverdrup. Thus, this frigate can sail continuously, and the Navy can thus maintain just as much sailing time as if KNM Helge Ingstad were in operation," said Nils-Andreas Stensønes, the head of the Norwegian Navy. "The need for frigates has not diminished, but by using . . . two crews, we manage to deliver just as much in peacetime."
Examination of salvage efforts
The Defense Committe of the Storting, Norway's legislature, has ordered an investigation into the salvage process that led up to the Ingstad's raising. "We need to know if proper reviews were made in the recovery process, how things were organized and, not least, what it would cost in the end," said Storting representative Martin Kolberg. According to Kolberg, the total cost of the salvage effort could exceed $80 million.
"No one disagrees that it was necessary to pick up the boat. But this is a dramatic and big accident, and it is important for the Storting to get an answer to this in order to get a correct picture of what has happened," Kolberg told NRK.