Video: Russian Icebreaker Makes Mayday Call in Heavy Weather

Published Oct 22, 2019 7:16 PM by The Maritime Executive

Norwegian authorities responded Monday to a mayday from a Russian icebreaker off the coast of Western Norway. 

At 0636 on Monday morning, the Russian icebreaker Tor issued a mayday call at a position off Ålesund, Norway. The 1964-built vessel had lost power in a storm, according to the search and rescue coordination center for south Norway (HRS Sør-Norge). 

Norwegian authorities launched a rescue helicopter out of Florø, which rendezvoused with the Tor and captured footage of the icebreaker rolling heavily with the swells. The assist tug Boa Heimdal, the AHTS Far Sigma and the Norwegian offshore patrol vessel K / V Bergen got under way to assist.

Meanwhile, the Tor's crew worked to regain power, and at 1015 hours they restarted two out of the vessel's four main engines, restoring maneuverability. With the Tor under way under her own power, HRS Sør-Norge stood down the rescue effort. 

Tor and her crew of 33 are under way from St. Petersburg to the port of Sabetta, where she is normally tasked with keeping shipping lanes open. Sabetta is the loading port for Novatek's Yamal LNG export terminal.

As of Tuesday evening, Tor was entering the approaches to Ålesund, Norway, a diversion from her route to the Russian Arctic. Still, in a statement to TASS, Russia's Federal Marine and River Transport Agency insisted that the distress call was "accidental."

"There are no problems, the icebreaker is fine and the crew is safe. The distress signal was sent accidentally after a power outage affected some equipment during the storm. The alert has been canceled," a Rosmorrechflot spokesperson said. 

Shipowner Rosmorport told Interfax that the Tor will continue her voyage when the storm has passed. Off Helgeland, waves of up to 40 feet were expected Tuesday afternoon, according to Norway's meteorology agency. Off Nordøyan, wind gusts of 80 knots were reported late Tuesday.