Tanker Sola and Norwegian navy frigate Helga Ingstad collide off Norway

My point was that Sola TS should have noticed and plotted HI before they did because I think she was visible on the radar from the time when they left the pier at 03:45. I do not know if any of the northbound vessels did plot her.

When it comes to manoeuvres, I think Sola TS did what could be expected from her, close quarter situation is normal many places.

I think that there was mistake from HI, VTS, and Sola TS that in the end resulted in the collision.

Mistakes.? A few.

While VTS was remarkably unhelpful in this case. If VTS had been on the ball and actually provided traffic information and updates. This incident may not have occurred.
Even so VTS is only a contributing factor, VTS did not cause this incident, VTS was just not very helpful at preventing this incident.

Both ships made errors of assumption. Which might not have been made if better information had been provided.

TS left the dock and planned a route assuming there was no opposing traffic. This route was well to the port of the center of the channel with three ships on her starboard side restricting her ability to alter course to starboard.
The TS should have reduced her deck lighting to the minimum for working the focsle as soon as she was underway.

The infirm report says. The OOW on the HI make a remarkable blunder.
The Bridge Team appears to have mistaken the TS for the terminal.

The rest of the report refers to complex “human factors” or human “error”, which will be difficult to determin. As the focus of the investigation. No doubt there.

The use of RADAR and plotting most likely played a role, on both vessels. The pilot on the TS was possibly focused more on ship manoeuvre as the TS left the dock and turned to head north.
How much help did he get from the rest of the bridge team? Any?

The OOW on the HI had just taken the watch over. What information was he given and did he fully understand it? The OOW clearly did not hav SA of his vessels position and projected position. Or the traffic.
The ship was going faster than he was.
That’s the interesting bit. We don’t know why?
My money is on poor communication, whith subordinates making assumptions the OOW knew what was happening and had the situation under control. So no one said “Look out there’s a FBT right in front of us” Until suddenly they figured out this was not the case and it was to late.

It would be interesting to know why the VTS didn’t have the frigate aquired. Did the fact that the frigate shut off it’s AIS have anything to do with it?

Was the VTS relying on AIS alone or did the VTS lose the radar target at one point during the transit?

There are 3 radars on Fedje VTS, all north of the position of the collison, so if they could see her where collision took place they should have been able to see her before. To my understanding the radar pictures from the news papers are from Fedje VTS.

We know that the HI checked In at some point. Presumably at that time it was either already aquired or they aquired it. But when the video starts it’s not aquired. Why?

But its on the screen. :smiley:

This whole mess could have been avoided if HI had her AIS on, giving Sola TS ample time to communicate and tell HI that they were NOT a stationary target.

What type of VTS system is used? Kongsberg, 10cm, long pulse, heavy blobs?
When the video starts HI shows a 2 minute trail of 1km. VTS does not track it until 50 seconds into the video, which means that she had been visible to VTS for at least 3 mins. Is this system auto- or manual acquisition? it almost looks manual which is unusual.

Hopefully we will see the VDR radar download of Sola TS in the near future.

It is hard to see how the Sola could have obtained a clear picture of the traffic conditions at the same time she was leaving the berth. The master and pilot were more than likely on the wing of the bridge until the ship had moved clear of the berth. The mate would have been at the engine controls, tankers of this size rarely have engine controls on the bridge wings.
In my experience it is usual for the pilot to obtain a briefing from the VTS before letting go with the master listening in. If the exchange was conducted in Norwegian then that is another unprofessional act.

As soon as the vessel has left the berth ,the pilot and captain comes inside the bridge. That is at least 10 minutes before they collide.

This thread was pretty good for a while, until it degenerated into sensationalist speculation while the voices of reason kept repeating things that were said way back in the beginning. I’ve sort of kept half an eye on it, but it seems like most of the salient conclusions were drawn early on. Now there has finally been some insightful commentary in the media, with the interim report coming under fire (Translation) for obfuscating rather than clarifying things. The writer points out some obvious mistakes made by the HI crew:

Reckless speed and negligent navigation are the causes of the accident. To emphasize anything else is obfuscation. The [frigate’s] speed should have been reduced the moment there was doubt about the traffic situation. Evading to port increased the damage, probably significantly. Evading to port in a close quarters situation is contrary to the colregs and basic seamanship.

While that last bit is a bit of a blanket statement, I think he nails it pretty good. Also, his points were all made in this thread already. To recap:

  • The HI crew should have considered reducing speed in confined waters.
  • HI should have reduced speed immediately when there was doubt about the traffic situation. The doubt in the watch standers voice on the VHF does not tally with full steam ahead.
  • HI should have sought additional sources of navigational information to correlate with what the watch stander was seeing.
  • Inasmuch as the HI was conducting navigational exercises in which they were navigating with fewer information sources (say, without radar), there should have been effective oversight by personnel with a clear picture of the operational environment.
  • HI should have been transmitting AIS.
  • VTS should have been extremely concerned about a “dark” ship moving at speed through their control area, and monitored the situation closely.
  • VTS should have provided clear instructions to the HI when the situation started to develop, indicating the TS’s position and required evasive action.
  • TS should have been clearer when warning about the situation, for example by indicating time to impact.
  • When in extremis, the HI should have evaded to starboard, understanding that TS could be doing the same.

I probably missed something, and as before I’m very much looking forward to the report, hoping against reason that they will release the bridge audio. At least it’s nice to confirm the gCaptain forum as my go-to source of nautical analysis :slight_smile:

EDIT: I notice that the first fully developed conspiracy theories have started making their appearance in the newspaper comments. This is really gonna be something :stuck_out_tongue:


There is no conspiracy. 14 Norwegian marine incident investigators of both the military and civilian marine incident boards have issued an unsigned, preliminary report (sic) to the effect that crew of ship KNM Helge Ingstad (HI) thought that it was heading up on land and thus turned port to avoid going aground or running up on the beach. Instead HI contacted the bow of tanker Sola TS that was 900 m from shore. It seems there was confusion on the HI bridge for some reasons. Drink, drugs, sexual violence, etc, we don’t know. I wonder why nobody has arrested any culprits on HI. When normal, civilian merchant ships cause incidents, standard practice is to arrest the Captain and jail/fine him.

Yes, that is called fake news these days.

The article is not exactly beating around the bush, it nails the real facts one by one. I am curious how the harbor authorities will react to this analysis. It is hard to lose face, especially for the almighty government officials.

An interesting read, but it has it’s limits as far as an analysis. It’s clear that the author has.a dog in the fight.

First off are we trying to understand this incident or assign blame? The author appears to think the report puts to little blame on the Navy, which seems to have been his motivation to write.

For example, the emphasis about the confusion of the tanker and terminal lights. If that is an explanation it’s a very helpful one. The author however treats it as an excuse.

Another weakness in the article is not taking into account hindsight. The frigate crew “should have” slowed down when in doubt, well no shit. The question is why didn’t they? In fact in real situations it’s very rare that people do. It’s not realistic to expect them to.

A third problem with the article is some terms are not defined. The article uses “cause” and “factor” but doesn’t say what thoese terms mean. Some define “cause” as a factor that if is changed then the accident does not occur. In that definition there are many causes.

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The author Eivind Sanden Vågslid is a former Assistent Director at Norwegian Maritime Authority and former department manager for IMO. He has gravitas in this case, he is calling out the Accident Investigation Board for publishing a smoke and mirror report when a lot of the accident is already self explanatory.


It’s a pure exercise in finger pointing, hence its publication as an opinion piece. It should be understood in the context of a growing sentiment that people aren’t being held accountable. Norway’s previous loss of the KNM Oslo revealed a deep seated lack of good safety culture in the Navy, and they tried to delay the publication (Translation) of a book about it until after things have died down. The Minister of Defense is even on the record (Translation) asking the media to stop asking so many unpleasant questions. While far from an unfiltered view, the article does unapologetically point out the most glaring mistakes that were made. I find it interesting, maybe even uplifting, that the opinions of someone who pulls so much weight align so closely with the findings of this board. Also, I should maybe point out that the bullet list is my recapitulation of this thread rather than the article.

You had me laughing out loud with that one :rofl: but I’m curious about your assertion that people rarely slow down. My approach may be different since I’m a small craft guy, but I always slow down when in doubt, and actively seek to lower the threshold for doing so when training new operators. Of course it tends to bring me into the wheel house to see what’s going on, but I make sure to always praise the watch stander for slowing down even if I then tell him to get back up to speed. Also, in my current operating environment of the congested waterways of Central Europe, big boat drivers slow down all the time to let situations develop fully before committing to a maneuver.


In this case I think the main reason they didn’t slow down is because they were not in doubt. By all evidence until the last seconds they appeared to believe the situation was they were meeting three ships port to port.

In general, my experience on the small ship is as mate I have slowed down many times as routine matter, for example approaching a pier, so not a big deal. One factor that the sense on the small ship is that the mate and captain are running the ship together, close to equals.

By contrast, on the Navy ship the low ranked officers are going to very much feel that they are not acting on their own but following instructions from the captain. If the orders or plan is to run 18 kts to slow down is to counter the orders.

Not literally, of course, the order will say “when in doubt” etc but it’s the culture in general.

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If the Mate slows down, or makes a hard turn, there is a good chance the captain will wake up and come to see what’s going on.

First of all, the Mate does not want to wake the captain. Second, he does not want the captain “interfering” with his watch. Third, the Mate does not want to admit that he has doubt, or is uncertain about what to do.

I have gotten many calls from young mates on 20 knot ships who ask me to change course (when I’m only making 5 knots towing a barge in rough sea) in order stay outside of the 3 mile CPA that their captain put in the night orders. They do not want to call the captain.


I think that we overlook the mandate of a VTS communication centre, which is among other things to provide broadcast maritime safety information, screen vessels entering the regulated waters, deliver information and advices to regulate marine traffic movement, and take appropriate action to ensure the safe and efficient movement of the vessels.

Here is a somewhat complete list of VTS tasks.

  • screen vessels entering regulated waters.
  • deliver information and advice to regulate the traffic movement,
  • take appropriate action to ensure the safe and efficient movement of vessels in regulated waters,
  • ensure that essential information becomes available in time for on-board navigational decision-making,
  • report on identity, position and intentions of other traffic,
  • prevent the development of dangerous maritime traffic situations,
  • provide for the safe and efficient movement of vessel traffic within the VTS area,
  • planning of vessel movements to prevent congestion and dangerous situations relevant in times of high traffic density,
  • establishing and operating a system of traffic clearances,
  • sailing plans in relation to priority of movements,
  • routes to be followed,
  • speed limits to be observed,
  • any other appropriate measures needed to maintain safety and efficiency…

Which ones of these tasks were efficiently and effectively completed during that fateful night? Asking the question is to answer it.

«According to the most complete surveys, over 90% of all transportation accidents are caused by perceptual error and 10% by response error. Situational awareness is the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their future status. Perception is the identification and interpretation of sensory in order to represent and understand the presented information or the environment.»

How can you perceive, comprehend and project environmental elements in a manner to carry out a proper response if crucial information is deficient or unknown at first. I concur that this transportation accident was caused 90% by a perceptual error and 10% by a response error. If only Fedje VTS had made sure that KNM Helge Ingstad fully understood that there was a laden Aframax departing Sture terminal, I don’t think we would be here talking about that occurrence. :thinking:


A while ago, we were heading west to Cape Henry fairway buoy. There was a Radar target coming from the south, hardy visible by eyesight. I then received a totally paranoid call on 16; «Calling the passenger vessel heading west at 22 knots … this is USS Warship 12345». After answering he warned me; «this is USS Warship 12345, alter your course immediately and keep clear». I replied; may I speak to your captain please? End of story. The warship made a u-turn and I never heard from him again.

We were sailing full at nighttime through a snow storm in ice, growlers and icebergs infested waters. The previous watch had notified the captain about the reduced visibility and the order was to call him if there was any «concerned» traffic. I was sitting behind the Radar keeping a constant watch to the point of not even having time to put a position on the chart. In the middle of the watch, I had to find a reason to get away from that nightmare. I took the phone and call the captain to relieve me as I had an urgent need to go to toilet. The captain understood as the cook wasn’t too good. While I was in my cabin having a smoke, I felt the engine slowing down. :joy:

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From the preliminary report:

The Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) from Sola TS has been secured and played back. It contains voyage data and audio recordings from the vessel’s bridge. Radar data and automatic identification system (AIS) data have been obtained from the Norwegian Coastal Administration. Data from the bridge of ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’ have also been retrieved and secured.

At around 03:40, the navigation officer coming on watch arrived on the bridge of ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’, went through the handover procedure and was informed about vessel traffic in the waters by the officer leaving the watch. The three northbound vessels were registered and plotted on the radar on board ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’. During the watch handover, an object with many lights was observed lying still just outside the Sture terminal.

At approximately 03:57 the (Sola TS) pilot observed the echo of a southbound vessel on the radar. The vessel was north of ‘Sola TS’. The pilot saw the vessel’s green light and that it would cross his course line, but did not have an AIS signal for the vessel.

At approximately 04:00, Fedje VTS called ‘Sola TS’ with the information that the vessel was possibly ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’. Shortly thereafter, the pilot called ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’ and requested it to turn to starboard immediately. The bridge crew on ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’ replied that they could not turn to starboard before they had passed the object they saw on their starboard side . Just after 04:00, ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’ was approximately 400 m from Sola TS. When ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’ did not change course, both the pilot and Fedje VTS called ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’ requesting the vessel to act. Shortly thereafter, ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’ carried out an avoidance manoeuvre, but it was too late, and the two vessels collided.

(end of quote)

The avoidance manoeuvre (900 meters from shore) was a port turn just in front of ‘Sola TS’, whose bulbous bow ripped open Helge Ingstad’s starboard underwater hull and whose anchor ripped open the war ship’s superstructure/deckhouse above waterline aft. It seems the Norwegian sailors didn’t have a clue where they were or what to do. I wonder what the Helge Ingstad’s hull damages below waterline looks like. However, from the report:

The AIBN’s preliminary assessment is that the accident was not caused by any single act or event, but can be explained by a series of interacting complex factors and circumstances.