Norwegian frigate sinking has far-reaching implications

In an incident that has attracted relatively little media attention in Australia, the modern 5,300-ton Norwegian frigate KNM Helge Ingstad sankin a Norwegian fjord after a collision with the large Maltese-registered oil tanker Sola TS.

It’s now clear what happened. In the early hours of 8 November, the Ingstadwas proceeding at 17 knots along the Hjeltefjorden near the Sture oil terminal. The Sola TS had just left the terminal fully laden and was proceeding at 7 knots. The watch on the Ingstad, which had just changed, thought that the deck lights of the tanker were part of the well-lit terminal.

The Sola TS became concerned about the situation. However, because the Ingstad wasn’t showing automatic identification system (AIS) data, initially neither the Sola TS nor the traffic station on shore could identify the frigate to warn it of the imminent danger. Repeated warnings to the Ingstad after it had been identified failed to get it to alter course until just seconds before the collision. The heavily laden tanker couldn’t manoeuvre out of the way.

The Ingstad suffered extensive hull damage along the starboard side, lost propulsion and steering control, and experienced flooding in three compartments, before running aground and later sinking. Eight crew members were injured.

Commissioned in 2009 and built by the Spanish shipbuilder Navantia, the Helge Ingstad was the fourth of the Fridtjof Nansen class of frigates in the Royal Norwegian Navy. Australia’s Hobart-class air warfare destroyers are of a broadly similar Navantia design.

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