Helge Ingstad

Norwegian frigate “Helge Ingstad” sinks after collision

This blog is not really about breaking news, but the story about a sinking Norwegian frigate is wild. Just look at this picture:

It will be interesting to hear more details about the accident. The short story is that Helge Ingstad collided with the Maltese oil tanker Sola TS. After the incident, the captain decided to run Helge Ingstad aground to keep the ship from sinking further. Fortunately, human injuries seem minor. All 137 crew members are evacuated, eight with minor injuries.

There are few available details about the events leading to the accident, but a few quick speculations are possible. NRK has a short video of the AIS images from the time of the accident. It appears that Helge Ingstad had their AIS turned off until after the accident. It was night, so it would have been difficult to spot the frigate. Especially if they also had their navigation lights dimmed, which warships do sometimes during exercise. Sola TS was escorted by a tug, so they could have been restricted in their ability to maneuver.1 The damage on Helge Ingstad appears on the starboard side, which is always a bad sign because it usually means that you were the one who didn’t follow the collision regulations. So a very quick and unscientific guess is that blame will fall on the frigate for not adhering to safety standards and taking proper precautions.

Helge Ingstad
Helge Ingstad in undamaged condition. Photo: forsvaret.no

Helge Ingstad is a Fridtjof Nansen class frigate, and it was commissioned in 2009. I hope they can save the ship, but at this point it looks like a write-off. The price for the ship is advertised online as around € 420 million. I would guess that a big portion of that is weapons, and Helge Ingstad probably was not fully equipped at the time of the accident. Anyways, a loss like this is really not something that a small country like Norway can afford.

On the other hand, Norway also couldn’t afford to operate and maintain all five frigates, so perhaps it will be easier with four left. Last year, the Norwegian Auditor General wrote a critical report about the conditions on the relatively new frigates. They found poor standards regarding maintenance, manning, and training. The Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet also notes the paradox that the ship is built to withstand enemy fire and continue operations even after being hit by a missile, but now it is sinking after a collision with a tanker which traveled at a speed of 7 knots. I guess it affirms the old naval axiom that it is easier to sink a ship by letting water in at the bottom than by letting air in at the top.

  1. I have not been able to find their AIS status for the time of the accident aside from position, course, and speed. 




Leave a Reply