Cruise Ship Viking Sky Update

Hi, any news about investigation report?

Nope. Here’s the AIBN home page so you can check for yourself:

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I just heard an interesting bit of scuttlebutt from a source close to the investigation: Low level in the lube oil tank caused the AMOS (Asset Management Operating System) to trigger the shutdown. The system didn’t allow for re-start without increasing the level, but could have been by-passed if the chief had known how. The ship was scheduled to load 15 m3 of lube oil in Harstad, but the decision was made to postpone this because the oil would be cheaper in Poland. Heads have already rolled.

This raises as many questions as it answers. Why did the captain and chief feel the need to head into bad weather with low lube oil levels? Who thought it was a good idea to design the system to shut down on low tank level? Why did they have to root around for the emergency procedures?


Because they don’t know their system and how to make it work. Modern automation systems are extremely complicated…but the safety inputs are usually discreet devices. Even if the software bypass wouldn’t work, a simple properly placed jumper should’ve got the spinny things rotating again.

Are you sure you got this right? AMOS used to be a computerized maintenance management system not a SCADA system for plant control and monitoring. Maybe your source got something mixed up?

The amount of oil in the engine sumps is not necessarily related to the amount in the lube oil storage tanks. It’s standard practice to purchase lube oil in ports with the lowest prices.

If there is not enough to get to the low-price port than the ship can take the minimum required, with a margin of course.

That said it’s still possible they ran with low amounts in the engines to avoid taking lube oil.

According to the preliminary report the oil level for the individual engines were within the limitation set by the manufacturer and thus presumably sufficient for operation in bad weather.

Don’t know if this is something that is verified and approved by Class and/or flag state inspectors.

The amount carried in storage tanks should not affect the operation of the engines.

That is indeed quite possible. He kept referring to “the amos”, and I had to look it up. He really should understand the subtleties here, but I’m afraid I can’t discuss his competence or position in any way, lest he be identified.

I initially refused to believe this as well. However, my source described a shared “cooling sump” and storage tank for all engines, and went on to relate multiple issues with the same system on other ships of the same class, including an instance of total failure of all engines because water got into this tank (I forget on which ship). He was quite adamant that “the amos triggered a shutdown because of low level in the storage tank”.

That neither explains nor excuses anything in my eyes. There are certain things you just know how to do. For example, that time I went to sea with way too little familiarization and ended up with multiple blackouts, a fire and a boiling main, related in the Unintended Blackouts thread, I had at least made sure I knew how to bolt up the clutch, how to lock the pitch in full ahead, how to isolate cylinders, etc. The idea of sailing in a position of any responsibility with a plant that shuts down automatically for any number of reasons, without knowing very well which wire to cut to bypass the nanny box, simply doesn’t compute.


I don’t understand what you’re saying here. You as an individual had to familiarize yourself with a relativity simple plant over time. Why wouldn’t the same thing be true of the engine crew on a ship with more complex systems?

I’m saying that I consider emergency bypass procedures literally mission critical knowledge, and wouldn’t put to sea if I didn’t know them. I present this in the context of an instance where my familiarization was clearly insufficient, perhaps irresponsibly so, but at least I knew how to keep the shaft turning if any of the usual suspects let go.

What mystifies me is how Viking could let that slip so far down the list that after years of service, any of a vast number of conditions would lead to loss of propulsion with no immediate recovery. Existing at the mercy of an invisibly chafing wire would seriously mess with my beauty sleep…

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I don’t know any details here of course but in general anything you want the crew to do in an emergency has to be practiced beforehand at regular drills.

We practice direct (engine side) maneuvering once a quarter. Without a drill it’s liable not to go well. Even with drills it’s still a crap shoot, in an actual emergency it takes a while to figure out what’s going on and organize things. Every alarm in the E/R (and wheelhouse) must have been going off. Also no doubt the crew would be under stress which causes tunnel vision etc.

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From the preliminary report issued by NMA 27.03.2019:

It appears that there are more than “one tank serving all engines”.

That frankly makes a lot more sense, and makes me wonder if what I’ve heard isn’t just second hand speculation. Time will show. Do you have any opinion on how long the AIBN will spend on the report?

Not sure, but I believe they allow themselves 10-11 months,normally. The mandatory deadline is 12 months to issue final report.

In this case there are many participants, incl. UK and US Maritime Authorities.
There is also the Classification Society (LRS), the engine manufacturer (MAN) and the builder ‎: (Fincantieri), insurers, lawyers for the passengers and maybe even more.

Companies are run by corporate folks in the office. They don’t know what they don’t know.

It sounds like you have been lucky in your career and sailed with well informed people. But back in the rest of the world, most people know very little about the intricacies of their control and safety systems. Unlike the airlines, there is no yearly mandatory safety procedural training in a simulator. The sad fact is that the modern engineer is more and more become more [plant] operator and less engineer.

Due to my life exposure and life observations, I am not surprised at all this cruise ship almost ended up on the rocks because of a super simple shut-down alarm. But, I have extremely low expectations of the modern operator to truly understand their systems and be able to “MacGyver” and jumper/bypass/rig something in an emergency.

To be able to provide work-arounds in an emergency quickly, one first has to truly understand the system. On the surface all these control systems look very complex with hundreds (or thousands) of I/O points. However, it’s all just a matter of inputs, some logic, and outputs. The computer only does what it’s programmed to do after reading the inputs. In the old days we just stuffed a rag in the alarm. Today, we gotta be a little fancier and maybe bust out a jumper wire or force some logic.

But the total truth is the people that make the decisions and set the budgets have no idea about this stuff. And the response from insurance and class is always after-the-fact and reactive. Plus, most of the people in charge are often just not intelligent.


A chief engineer that I sailed with started as an apprentice fitter and turner at a naval dockyard. After a four year apprenticeship in this approved heavy industry workshop he obtained his 3rd engineer qualification. 18 months sea time and 6 months school were required before he could sit for second engineer and the same again for his first engineer qualification. He spent a number of years on the promotional ladder before making it to chief engineer and is currently chief engineer of a pipe layer. He tells me hair raising stories about the competency of some of the engineers he has to sail with.
I would have assumed that the Viking Sky would have had electrical/ electronic officers who should have had a deeper understanding of computer and control systems to assist the senior engineering staff to come up with a work around to get the plant operating again.
It will be interesting to see if the report mentions if any of the engineering staff attended any course provided by the manufacturer of the equipment or they received their training onboard.
In this day of increasing complexity of shipboard control equipment there is no mention of an electrical engineer in any Safe Manning Certificate that I have seen.

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The companies won’t pay for crew to attend manufacturer’s training classes, they are too cheap. And it’s more “sexy and important” to send mates off to training instead of the forgotten people that keep the ship moving and lights on.

There are usually electrical engineers on the cruise ships, but many are sparky computer type without operational experience. In my opinion, it’s better to take a licensed engineer/mechanical minded person and turn them into an electrical expert than it is to take an electrical minded expert and try to get them to understand the operational and system side.

With that said, it still is difficult to retain somebody with both sides of the equation, because it truly takes a smart and experienced person…and person that truly has the knowledge will likely earn more $$$ elsewhere. In truth, with the complexity of the new ships, it is not silly to consider that the chief electrical engineer should be the highest paid on the ship (much to the dismay of the Master, lol). Supply vs demand!

Lastly, years of experience does not automatically equal competence and understanding of systems. There are many smart guys that are 25-35 years old that know magnitudes more than their seniors…but the industry tends to favor seniority and time in service versus ability, knowledge, and merit.

Another possibility is to have on board an Artificial Intelligence system tuned to the ship’s systems which can for instance indicate, for a certain fault, which jumper(s) have to placed or removed or what other action(s) have to be taken to correct the situation but also information about bypasses etc.

It is also feasible to augment it with a shore based support system somewhat organized like the Radio Medical Advice system. After the first diagnosis you get the relevant specialist on the phone who guides you through the ‘fault finding’ process and gives a final advice.

As the situation is now it all depends on the (probably unknown) in depth capabilities of on board engineers and techs which is an undesirable situation.

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The Viking fleet of ocean cruise ships have mostly Scandinavian officers and engineers, incl. ETOs. They don’t come cheap.
They are well educated through the (free) Maritime Education systems, which is based on STCW requirements as a minimum.
Additional training and re-training is standard in Norway/Scandinavia and most of Europe. This is paid by the employer and mandatory for most parts.

Marine crewing and technical management are by Willhelmsen Shipmanagement, which is not a “fly-by-night” outfit, like some other cruise ship companies use:

I’m pretty sure the Engineers, ETOs and engineering crew would have been sent to MAN B&W training centre:
Or MAN instructors sent to the building yard to hold courses, before the ship leave the yard.
Which makes it even more difficult to understand (or believe) that lack of knowledge and training was a main factor here.

For the records:
They DID manage to restart one engine and restore some propulsion power fairly quickly. Without that power it is doubtful that the anchor would have been able to keep her off the rocks for very long.

More generator power was restored after some hours and the ship was able to move, unaided by tugs, into open water. Because it was uncertain if this was reliable, evacuation continued until a tug was connected.
She moved under own power, but with tug assistance for safety, through the narrow and dangerous waters outside Bud and in to Molde.

BTW: She is here in Aalesund today on her third visit this summer:

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It’s where the buck stops. The master of the Viking Sky was well and truly under the pump when the machinery shut down and in the aftermath every decision he made will be scrutinised.