Cruise ship Viking Sky in problem

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The experts from MAN who have investigated the causes of the engine breakdown on board the “Viking Sky” confirm that the cause of the engine failure was low lubricating oil levels. This is communicated by Managing Director Jan Hoppe to the Ship Revenue.

By Sigbjørn Larsen


A team from the engine supplier MAN has been on board the “Viking Sky” to do their own investigations of the engine failure.

“Our experts have confirmed the findings that the engine stopped due to low lubricating oil levels,” says Jan Hoppe to the Ship Revision. He is the communications director at MAN. - I remind you that this is preliminary results, says Hoppe. There are still open questions to be clarified and the investigation continues. I’m afraid we can’t or won’t add anything more to the official statement that has already come out.

The shipwreck has also asked MAN for a comment on the objections to the design that have come from several motor-skilled seafarers in the debate that is now taking place fully.

  • When it comes to the design of the ship or the energy management system on board, we cannot comment on this as both were not made by MAN Energy Solutions, Hoppe says.

Experienced seafarers ask more questions

“I have never seen anything like this in almost 40 years at sea, it must be a serious design error,” writes Asbjørn Kiran in Skipsrevyens comment field.

  • This sounds very strange, as I understand this, these engines have dry sump, that is, the return oil goes to tank, Stein Robertsen points out in the same commentary field to the Ship Revenue. In that tank, there is a level switch that provides a low level alarm. If the design is such that the pump can suck air at a low level then the whole design is wrong. Then, if the level remains low then a certain amount of time for auto stop is activated and the engine stops, then one should normally be able to reset this alarm and then start the engine again. I realize that it can be difficult and pointing a tank when there is bad weather, but you do not have to be a space researcher and understand this, writes Robertsen and characterizes the explanation of cause as “thin”. Hans Hilton Thorstensen replies that according to a news report there is a wet swamp on the engines. Normally, there is no “shut down” of the engines due to the low level, but there is a class requirement for “shut down” at high temperature and high pressure. Nor is it shut down due to tight filters, says Thorstensen.

-It is a plausible explanation, but it should at the same time be a wake-up call for many, writes Jan Poseidon Welde. In the design side, one fights to reduce weight, perhaps one has been tricking a bit far with the capacity of the lubricating oil tanks. Perhaps one should have had a little more delay before the full shut-down on some alarms.
There are also other moments, but I know too little to be categorical - but I’m not a journalist either.

  • If it seems very strange that all 4 engines in 2 separate engine rooms get oil from the same lubricating oil tank, I think that one had never been approved, writes Per Bråtun. It is probably more likely that the oil level on both / all tanks has been in the smallest team before they start crossing …

-The point is automatic systems that have come all over, which can hardly be overrun manually … when the machines auto-stop signals indicating that the engine is living dangerously, which it actually does … it can quickly become dangerous on the sea, writes Nils Johansen. Experienced with a 1500 caterpillar brand new … stop with indication of overpressure in the bottom boiler … bad weather and sensitive donor rush. It was almost on the shore outside Bodø … happily the engineer got the alarms (limp home mode) after being in contact with cat centrally … so there are many that can happen.

  • Surely too expensive to fill in Norway so they should wait, writes Stian Holst.

Engine power

The “Viking Sky” has four MAN main engines, two series nine-cylinder engines (9L32 / 44CR of 5.040 kW each) and two 12-cylinder V-motors (12V32 / 44CR of 6,720 kW each). They are configured with two engines distributed on a main engine and an auxiliary motor in each engine room, separated by fire and waterproof bulkheads and doors. According to MAN, the engine type is specially designed for the use of heavy oil (HFO according to DIN ISO 8217 specifications). The engines are turbocharged with MAN’s own MAN TCR system.

  • The automation and control system is also developed by MAN (Sacos one), writes Teknisk Ukeblad. According to a brochure from MAN there is separate lubricating oil filter on each engine, while the water cooling takes place via a two-strand high and low temperature system.
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Resetting a DG alarm on the diesel electric plants I’ve worked on involved resetting it on the ECR console and the local DG panel. Often just cycling a switch to “reset” and someone else clicking the reset button in the ECR.

The ECR panel should’ve had a UPS so it would still be functional.

The Generators would need to be reset and be in a ready to start condition (Prelube).

Prelube supplied from E-Bus as per MAN manual.

Able to emergency start MANs as per the manual. This also allows you to start without any interlocks (as per MAN manual) One ship (MAN dg’s) I was on all starting we did was with the local emergency start. The C/E didn’t like using the remote console, preferred to have the guy starting it right there watching it.

If all 4 had tripped off on low LO pressure I would be wary of overriding alarms. Yes you want to save the ship, but how much time would a generator run with no/intermittent LO. Then you would be close to the coast with fucked up engines.

Maybe a better solution to rolling would be to increase the time delay on the low LO pressure alarm. That way you still have the protection of the alarm and allow the plant more time to recover from its rolling.

If a LO storage tank could be gravitated down to the sumps (likely) than that might’ve taken some time. Working in the heavy rolling with the man in the ECR getting millions of alarms and phone calls.


Ambassador to Norway

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@Fraqrat is that you? Where you been? Nice of you to drop in on the folks onboard the Viking Sky.


This is from gCaptain via Reuters

It’s not 100% clear what happened, low level or low pressure? it says the black-out was caused by low oil pressure. But it also seems to be saying that the loss of supply to the pumps triggered an alarm which in turn shut down the engines. The NMA statement also seems to be saying that the tank low-level alarm had not been triggered “at this time”.

I assume the loss of supply to the pump caused a drop in pressure and the loss of pressure was sensed which then shut down the engines but that’s not what it says;

This triggered an alarm indicating a low level of lubrication oil,

The Norwegian Maritime Authority’s full statement is below:

Last night, the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) granted the company a permit to sail on a single voyage to Kristiansund to have necessary repairs made. Throughout the night, the NMA has worked together with the ship’s classification society, Lloyd’s, and the company in order to identify the reason why the Viking Sky suffered power “blackout” at Hustadvika in challenging weather conditions on Saturday 23 March.

For the present, our conclusion is that the engine failure was directly caused by low oil pressure. The level of lubricating oil in the tanks was within set limits, however relatively low, when the vessel started to cross Hustadvika. The tanks were provided with level alarms, however these had not been triggered at this time. The heavy seas in Hustadvika probably caused movements in the tanks so large that the supply to the lubricating oil pumps stopped. This triggered an alarm indicating a low level of lubrication oil, which in turn shortly thereafter caused an automatic shutdown of the engines.

The NMA has drawn up a general safety notice about ensuring a continuous supply of lubricating oil to engines and other critical systems in poor weather conditions. This should be done in cooperation with the engine supplier and, moreover, be included in the ship’s risk assessments in the safety management system.

Viking Ocean Cruises has made the following statement: “We welcome the prompt and efficient investigation carried out by the NMA and we fully understand and acknowledge their findings. We have inspected the levels on all our sister ships and are now revising our procedures to ensure that this issue could not be repeated. We will continue to work with our partners and the regulatory bodies in supporting them with the ongoing investigations,”

Norwegian Maritime Authority is in a continuous dialogue with the company and classification society, and this cooperation has been successful. We will follow up the ongoing work to rectify damages on vessels. Furthermore, we will continue the constructive dialogue with the classification society, company and the Accident Investigation Board Norway in order to reveal underlying causes and identify appropriate measures.

The statement also wisely points out the need for lube oil in an engine.

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This is the kind of sage advice you get when “safety professionals” get involved.

This only makes sense if you add the word “pressure” after oil (all caps added above). It’s not very grammatical but makes more sense in a english-as-asecond-language way.

Who knows what this plant actually had but a trunk piston engine should have a low oil LEVEL alarm whether dry sump with reservoir below or wet sump. This should alarm before a pump looses suction. It should have a time delay to filter out meaningless nuisance alarms. An alarm and monitoring system should have an analog point with the ability to monitor for high and low “warning” set points and high and low alarm set points in this case engine LO pressure. This point should have a hysteresis setting to prevent spurious resets. The engine controls should have a low oil pressure shutdown. This should be by device (pressure switch) separate from the alarm and monitoring system. It should be routinely tested. Since we are talking about a DE plant I don’t believe that should be “inhibit-able” but maybe this “safe return to port rules” have something else to say about it. (If the propulsion motor had a low oil pressure shutdown that would be the thing to inhibit in an emergency maneuvering situation - for a DG the next one should just come online, subject to throttle phase back and load shedding of course)

If the above assumptions on plant arrangement are close to reality, then one can imagine scenarios where human actions loom large in ending up where they did. Total blackout, anchors out and looking at rocks and struggling to start a DG.

They need to go much deeper into this if they really want to learn something for next time.


6 posts were split to a new topic: Engine Failure on Tug

If anybody were in doubt about how close they were to get the bottom ripped out on the rocks, this may end any speculations:

Copied from Captain’s Voyage Forum:

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You’ve pretty well nailed it. Most duty engineers I knew had finished their evening rounds by 2300 and on their way to bed. The more experienced the Engineer meant the less likely an alarm between then and 0800 the next morning.

I have been following the discussion on this incident both here and with the shipsnostalgia forum. In both cases there are very interesting comments from knowledgeable professional mariners. My understanding is that after loss of propulsion power there was significant drift towards a rock bound lee shore in stormy weather conditions. Furthermore those same conditions meant passenger evacuation by lifeboat and liferaft would be extremely hazardous. Understandably the situation called for distress ( mayday ) signal and attempting anchoring and helicopter evacuation. My interest is in how the crisis management team on board then decide how to organize the passengers into “flights” of a dozen or so per chopper. With about a thousand passengers to be winched up, either individually or even in pairs, and even with multiple choppers this is a lengthy process. In about sixteen hours they managed to evacuate under half the pax ( about 490 ) on board before stopping because the vessel was seaworthy with power again. What criteria, if any, are used to decide who goes first/next ? Is there a “triage” type of system or a “line up” or “queue” equivalent with people moving nearer the front? Who decides or is there a company policy for such a situation? Does the system vary from company to company or between flag states? After many years ashore I am still interested. I thought the situation was handled very well under circumstances and a credit to all involved. I would be grateful for a reply from someone who sails in these ships and has experienced a similar helicopter evacuation of large numbers.

It was reported that after those who were hurt was lifted off they had a kind of raffle by cabin no. but some “winners” preferred to take their changes on board, rather than be winched off.
Whether this was per some prepared procedure is doubtful, as it would be hard to envisage a situation quite like this.

As cruise ships get bigger and bigger, the traffic planning becomes even more important. How you’re going to move that number of people around the ship, give access to the lifeboats or at least to the muster stations, that are some of the concerns. What it essentially amounts to is crowd control.

Cruise lines use software that simulates an emergency and evacuation and is used in the design process to ensure that crowds could move off the ship safely. International regulations require that lifeboats should be launched with everyone on board within 30 minutes from the time an abandon ship order is made.

This is all theory. It all depends on the prevailing conditions during an emergency such as the weather and sea condition, in case of flooding the list of the ship which could prevent life boats from being lowered, fire, black outs and not to forget panic. It is probably for this reason that the cruise lines advocate ‘the ship is your best lifeboat’ theory.

Cruise lines should better prepare for disaster scenarios in a variety of locations, develop worst-case scenarios in real time, with real people and real hardware drills that clearly identify where the holes in the system are.

One major consideration is, or should be, that there are only coverage of 35% of total complement in lifeboats on either side. (70% of total) The rest is covered by life rafts, but only to cover 100% if total number on board.

If, because of list or fire, the lifeboats and rafts on one side (refr. C.Concordia) is unable to launch that leaves half the people on board without any means of escape, unless by outside sources.
The 2010 amendment “safe return to port”:
is probably the best bet, but in this case that proved not to function as it should.

A documentary on NRK TV1 today re: the double drama on Hustadvika a week ago:

Of course the program is mostly in Norwegian, but the pictures and the phlegmatic Master on the Hagland Captain tell a good part of the story.
The two British ladies also sound like the handled the trauma pretty well.

The speculation continues, as to the cause of what shut down all engines. As was suggested earlier in the thread, only after a protracted length of time has passed and a thorough investigation concluded, will the true cause be known. Yet that conclusion will not be the true root cause, as a single circumstance or reason, mechanical or human related, is never to blame. Rather, a complex, systemic series of factors will more than likely be proven to have caused the engine failures. For more on this subject see[How Complex Systems Fail - Richard Cook, MD -]

There is now valuable discussion beginning to come to this thread that touches on the subject of planning a future circumstance wherein a cruise ship with many thousands of passengers and crew are in peril. Whether that threat manifests itself due to weather, mechanical failure/fire/explosion, or terrorist threat - what can be done?

On the other hand, what if a future circumstance involves not a vessel with thousands of people onboard but rather an autonomous vessel with no-one onboard, off a lee shore such as Hustadvika? Think this could be out of the question… no, nothings impossible. I submit the two pilots onboard Viking Sky, as well as the ship Master, would not have thought it possible that a mechanical failure such as what was experienced could have taken place.

Many questions and much discussion should be taking place by stakeholders of both types of vessels described above - plan for the inevitable.

I am surprised that the Master of Viking Sky is not yet arrested and put in jail! According latest maritime rules and traditions – see Criminalisation of Seafarers – the Master is responsible for everything aboard including all safety matters. It was established after the Costa Concordia incident 2012, where the solution was to jail the Master for 16 years! The ship owner is not responsible for anything. I always wonder why all these ship masters carry on with their jobs with this enormous responsibility. You cannot blame an incident on low or no lub oil pressure. It is always the fault of the Master.

Seriously, it’s time to talk to your doctor about increasing your meds. No one wants to link over to your website either.


You sound like a drunken sailor or cruise company director suggesting that the Master of a cruise ship is responsible for everything incl. the lub.oil and safety at sea and that the owner ashore is responsible of nothing. So there will be more cheap cruise ship incidents.

Thanks for the info. I find it difficult to get answers to questions on these forums. An awful lot of off topic bs, wind from “know alls” who seem to know nothing, and in the case of gcaptain a huge amount of input from wannabee american mariners who appear
to have minimal knowledge of matters maritime.

I thought the “Viking Sky” situation was particularly scary before they managed to restore propulsion power. I find it incredible that all 4 prime movers shut down almost at the same time because of low lube oil pressure. In the situation they had there,
I thought credit was due to the captain, crisis management team, helicopter pilots and the whole ship’s company. I’m glad I wasn’t aboard.

As a matter of interest since you seem to be much more recent and better informed than I am, do any cruise ships have proper helidecks so the choppers can actually land? If so are they equipped with avtur refuelling capability and are any of the crew trained
in appropriate helideck duties? I have actually taken a couple of cruises aboard such ships and there was no helideck on either ( HAL “Rotterdam” and “Veendam”). My experience of helicopters and ships was none in the ships I normally sailed in. They definitely
did not have any provision for even directly communicating or winching operations with helicopters. However, as a reservist sailing with the Royal Navy I spent some time in frigates and was flown intership on occasions. Later as an “oilman” rather than
a “mariner” i spent time on rigs, barges and platforms in both the North Sea and Canadian Arctic where helicopters are used extensively. I recall that in the late 70s in the Brent field, Shell chartered a modified semi-sub rig called “Treasure Finder” which
as well as being a flotel, offshore medical centre, warehouse, and diving spread support vessel had a large hangar and 2 helidecks. I believe about 4 or 5 Bell 212s and a couple of Bolkows were based out there together with pilots and mechanics. Occasionally,
the 212s were used for SAR or MOB rescue drills and the Doctor and I, being “idlers”, were persuaded to be the “casualty”. We were “dropped” into the water from a low level and then “recovered” with the winch. The 212s were also used to fly sequential shift
change “shuttles” at approx 06:00 and 18:00 when the construction crews changed shift. Maybe 75 or so day shift swapping out with 30 or so night shift. I remember a lot of pre-computer pen, paper and carbon manifesting and mustering each flight in life jackets
and survival suits well beforehand. The 212s landed, discharged about 12, boarded another 12 and took off again inside 3 minutes when they were then almost immediately replaced by the next one. It was impressive to see and generally went well due to a lot
of practise and planning and experienced passengers.

As I get older I ramble on more than ever so my wife says. Anyway, thanks again for the info.


A frightening sight of a large cruise ship coming too close for comfort to the rocky Norwegian coast, with also invisible underwater rock formations in between. They had all the luck of the world that the anchor kept the ship off the rocks and so prevented a disaster that was about to develop. A harrowing ordeal.