Tanker Owner Settles With Norway Over Collision With Frigate

File image courtesy Forsvaret

Published Feb 9, 2022 10:24 PM by The Maritime Executive

The owner of the tanker that collided with the Norwegian frigate Helge Ingstad in 2018 has agreed to pay about $27 million in compensation to the Norwegian government for the loss of the warship. 

The Helge Ingstad collided with the tanker Sola TS off the Sture oil terminal in Norway's Hjeltefjord on November 8, 2018. Despite desperate attempts to keep her afloat, she gradually sank on a rocky, sloping seabed near the terminal. Seven crewmembers were injured in the collision, but all were evacuated safely and there were no fatalities. 

In late February 2019, after lengthy delays due to weather, Helge Ingstad was raised and transported to a pier in Hanøytangen for evaluation. Facing a repair bill of $1.4 billion - three times the newbuild cost of the vessel - the Royal Norwegian Navy declared her a total loss. In early 2021, Norway's defense procurement agency contracted with a local scrap yard to demolish the wreck at a cost of $7.1 million, spending extra to ensure that any sensitive technology aboard the vessel would remain in the country. 

A preliminary report from Norway's Accident Investigation Board found that a significant share of the fault for the collision lay with the watchstanders of Ingstad's bridge team, who believed that the oncoming tanker was a fixed object up until the final moments before the collision. Despite extensive attempts at communication between the tanker, the VTS center and the Ingstad, the frigate's bridge team did not attempt to alter course until they were in extremis. The tanker's bow struck Ingstad amidships on the starboard side, causing extensive damage and flooding. 

The settlement agreement with Twitt Navigation covers a small fraction of the $490 million value of the frigate and the $80 million that Norway spent on salvage expenses. It represents an end to the negotiations, but it still leaves the capability gap created by the frigate's loss: Ingstad was one of only five main surface combatants in the Royal Norwegian Navy, and her absence represents a considerable reduction in capacity. 

The Norwegian Navy has also had difficulty with its new fleet replenishment oiler, KNM Maud, which was delivered by DSME in 2018. One year after her delivery, classification society DNV banned her from sailing after finding several safety hazards on board. These were repaired, but Maud has had persistent problems with an integrated electronic control system for her pumps and valves, among other shipboard systems. She was forced to depart a major NATO exercise for repairs in late 2021. 

"KNM Maud has experienced that the [Integrated Platform Management System] freezes or stops working. The risk of continuing to operate is that if the system goes down, you can lose track of key components in the vessel and these must then be followed up manually. So because of the safety of the crew and the ship, the captain chose not to leave the quay," said Flag Commander Trond Gimmingsrud, speaking to Soldatnytt.