Tanker Sola and Norwegian navy frigate Helga Ingstad collide off Norway


In this latest incident it was the bulbous bow of slow speed, heavy M/T Sola TS that ripped open the single, thin hull side of fast KNM Helge Ingstad at say 30° angle so … I assume the underwater damages of the Norwegian ship are very long - >60 meters!! I wonder why divers haven’t filmed it. Anyway, if the wreck is lifted on a barge, we will see the hull damages. Maybe five watertight compartments of KNM Helge Ingstad were up-flooded at the collision, so she only floated on intact double bottom tanks, watertight compartments and warship watertight decks. The safety of sea of warships is zero anyway; They shall just attack the enemy and after that … nobody cares. When sinking the sailors shall jump into the water and swim ashore. FYI I assisted the IMO 1991/7 on behalf of ICS, Liberia and Sweden (paid for by a nice ship owner) to improve oil tanker safety and environmental protection. I am sorry to say I wasn’t impressed by the IMO, i.e. mostly overpaid diplomatic people with no knowledge of anything employing English marine consultants at high fees, bla, bla, bla. Then Sweden decided 1996 I was an idiot and there we are today.


He was assigned to the Norwegian Navy to learn how they operate, as is the stated purpose of placing US Naval Officers on allied ships. He was not an observer or instructor in conjunction with the just completed exercise.

And yes, I DO hope he learnt something; how NOT to do it when you are transiting in heavy trafficked waters. Not transmitting AIS signals and not observing RoR is not recommended SOP.


Apparently HI did transmit AIS signals part of the way during transit from the exercise area towards Haakonsvern Naval station:

They turned on their AIS when passing the narrow passage at Maaloy, but turned it off for the rest of the voyage along the inshore route, incl. when they entered the heavily trafficked Hjeltefjorden, where the collision happened.
Why will probably only be know when the official investigation report is issued, sometime next year.


Let’s repeat. KNM Helge Ingstad (HI) (AIS switched off) approaches M/T Sola TS on a head on collision course early morning in restricted waters with plenty other ships around. The two ships talk on VHF. Sola TS asks HI to turn starboard. Sola TS also turns starboard as per colregs. But, in the last moment HI turns port. When HI at 14 knots has turned port 20° and Sola TS at 6 knots has turned starboard 10°, the starboard bow side of HI contacts Sola TS bulbous bow below waterline. The angle between the two ships is 30° and the relative speed 20 knots in this unlikely moment of contact. The HI starboard side shell plate below waterline down to the bilge is sheared off like a slice of cheese. Water enters and up-floods HI’s hull compartments (engine rooms flooded!) and HI starts to heel starboard, so that the Sola TS anchor and bow flare above waterline contact the HI aft superstructure, which is ripped open at the stern end of HI. The collision lasts about 15 seconds and must have been very noisy on HI. On Sola TS they hardly noticed anything as the contact is 200 m forward. HI later talks to shore and reports that it has run aground. It seems that HI swings around 120° starboard during the collision, pushed by Sola TS, and then stops dead in the water. That HI doesn’t capsize upside down to float a while before sinking with a 100 m long opening in the starboard side below waterline killing all aboard is a miracle maybe explained by the fact that warship HI has watertight decks in the hull with small watertight hatches (all escapes are vertical ladders in these hatches), so that temporarily air was maybe trapped there providing buoyancy during the evacuation of HI. Tugs later push HI onto the steep shore, where it finally sinks with only the forward top light above water. It is a pity that no crew members of HI have told media what really happened aboard and how they survived. It is an amazing and unlikely collision but with a happy ending. Nobody died.


“I assume that the Captain of Sola TS was on the bridge, and that the situation was Captains command, Pilot advice. I believe that most ISM require the Captain to be on the bridge when pilot is on-board. It is the job of the Captain to challenge the decision of the pilot.”

You are absolutely right- The routine log-entry covering the pilotage operations in a merchant ship’s logbook normally reads like this-“Helm and Engine movements to Captain’s orders and Pilot’s advice”.
However, in reality, a Captain rarely overrides a Pilot’s advice. It has to be a situation where the pilot is obviously not in control of the situation and, the Captain has serious doubts about the ship’s safety. In my years of command of several very large ships through many of the world’s major ports, I can name a single incidence where I took full control of the anchoring operations from a Singapore pilot. The pilot seemed to be in a state of panic as he could not control the loaded ship’s inbound passage through the congested Singapore anchorage. Even in that instance, the pilot requested me to assume control of the operations as collision with at least one of the anchored ships seemed imminent. The pilot was gracious enough to thank me, adding a curious comment that he had never before handled a ship of that size and a fully loaded one. Among many of his questionable actions, was a ‘Full Astern’ engine-movement given without considering the effects of transverse-thrust on ship’s heading. In congested waters, this mistake can lead to a disaster unfolding in slow motion.

Of course, Sola T’s situation was very different in many ways. For Sola T’s Captain, it was an easy assumption to make, that the local naval ship would know what to do in a simple traffic situation, until it was too late for both, the Pilot and the Captain, to realize that they had to somehow move their loaded ship out of the way of this oncoming missile!

To Sola T, it was an impossible task.


I assume the M/T Sola TS Captain/Master is Greek and that any VHF conversation between Sola TS and Helge Ingstad was between the pilot (Norwegian, I assume) on Sola TS and some unknown persons on Helge Ingstad with the Greek captain, advising the pilot, not understanding anything. I assume that the marine incident investigators will in the end blame the whole incident on the Greek Master for not having asked the pilot to speak English, etc. It is standard practice to blame the Masters for everything nowadays and then jail them.


You usually find when reading full accident reports that there are quite a few reasons leading up to the final cause of the accident.
I’m not sure what the watch system is onboard a norwegian naval vessel but I believe the actual time of the collision was 0403 hours. If the watch was 2400- 0400hrs there may have been some lack of concentration or communication between the watch going off and the watch coming on.
Who knows?


“With the angle of HI hitting Sola TS, I doubt she would have breached any cargo hold, and if she did it would be high up”

It was by sheer luck that the angle of impact turned out the way they did, thus preventing the tanker’s hull from being breached in the collision. You never know how the results of last-minute desperate actions to avoid collision will pan out.

A tanker’s hull-plating and frames aren’t strong enough to withstand a powerful collision with another large vessel. What could somewhat lessen the amount of oil escaping the cargo tanks is the double-hull construction of tankers. But even double-hull is no guarantee against a breach in case of a collision with another vessel or, a grounding incident on rocky sea-bed or, hitting a submerged object such as an abandoned anchor in shallow waters, if you’re so unlucky to hit that one spot. Another architectural feature that could ease the environmental impact would be the longitudinal and transverse watertight sub-divisions in the ships. But these are just mitigating design features. These features will help in maintaining damage-stability and will also allow the disaster response agencies the time they need to deploy heavy equipment like pumps and oil booms to contain the damage to the environment. In this incident, the luck played a bigger role than the humans involved in preventing the environmental tragedy. Some people like to call it ‘The hand of God’.


Would you please state any legal decisions that compulsory pilotage is advisory in nature. The «pilot as advisor» myth persists as reinforced by the entry in log books; «Proceeding to master’s orders and pilot advice».

If a voyage under compulsory pilotage last for say 20 hours, how do you gather the ISM or the Law spirit dictating periods of rest for a master ?

Is there any danger to lose control by going full astern when there is Double-Voith tug made fast to the stern, equipped with 2 Rolls Royce Bergen engines that can develop a continuous total output of 5040 kW (6850 BHP) and a bollard pull of 67 tonnes ?


When I said challenging the pilot I dont mean always verbaly, but that the other part of the bridge team must pay attention to pilots action. They do make mistakes for courses, rudder order, and sometimes lack of shiphandling practise for larger ships or type of ships. It is mostly not dramtic, we are supposed to be as team, where what one forget, the other will remember.


When the under long pilotage and the master is unable to be on the bridge all the time due to rest hour requierment, the master must be relieved by the chief mate, if that is not a viable solution they must stop the vessel, its not very complicated.


I dont think you can call it sheer luck, as they were head on, and Sola had no space to go more to STB. HI is not a large vessel, and like I said she might have punctured 1 tank of Sola TS high up.


Agree and that’s gonna give you the time to sleep as much as you like and pack up your gears while your relief is on his way. Not more complicated than that.


If you dont work for a company that excepts limits, better leave.


This is a good reference on this topic and you have seen it-


But here is from my own experiences with compulsory pilotage-

Generally speaking the burden of responsibility while a ship is under compulsory pilotage would be determined on a case-by-case basis. Most importantly, it will depend on the Port State Administration and local laws. For the ship’s Master, it is all about being pragmatic. Even if the pilot (and the tugs) were fully responsible for an accident the ship would still be held liable for damages to the port. This is the reality of that business. As Master, you would file a notarized statement-of-facts about the accident and complete a ton of other paperwork which will only help in filing claims with your underwriters. If the damages claimed by the port are small enough in terms of U.S.dollars, like a ship hitting the jetty while a tug was pushing too hard during berthing operation and it broke a couple of struts under the berth in the process, the ship would be held responsible for a couple of thousand dollars worth of damage to the jetty. In such a case, the owners’ P&I Representative would advise you to not even challenge the claim in court. He will use his resources on that very day to limit the payout on the basis of the circumstances of the case (pilot’s fault), and help the ship quickly arrange a bank guarantee issued by a local bank to avoid significant delays to ship’s departure. You can bet that the Harbor Master will hold the ship’s Outward-Port-Clearance until he receives such a bank-guarantee for the amount deposited in an escrow account. This type of expense is just a cost of doing business in a foreign land where the shipping company happens to have its 100 million dollar asset and its crew waiting at the mercy of some foreign Port Authority. Your job as Master is to make sure the pilot appears to be in a sound mental state, that is, not obviously drunk or otherwise incapable of performing the operation for which you are responsible. It sounds weird and contrary to the law of this blessed land. But that is the reality in many, or dare I say ‘most’ parts of the world.
Even in the case of Sola T, it would be interesting to see the judgment passed on the Master of Sola T. He will most likely be held responsible for not taking many actions before, during and immediately after the incident. Even his style of command will undergo rigorous scrutiny. That’s the way it is, and it has to be.


Foreign land to you may be different to foreign land for most Master. I would think that USA would be a place were most Masters would dread having an accident, precisely because of what you describe.

US Authorities and US Courts are not exactly known to be most knowledgeable of Maritime affairs, or most unbiased against anybody foreign.


Merchant ships underway have different capabilities at different times. When running at night with just a new third mate and AB in the wheelhouse the ship has far less capabilities then when the master and mate are in the wheelhouse, lookout on the bow, engine room manned and so forth. An important part of voyage planning is making sure the manning is appropriate for the situation.

Same thing with the Navy ships, with the McCain and Fitzgerald the bridge watch was insufficient for the circumstances.

The Fitzgerald didn’t take into account crossing that heavy coastwise traffic lane off Japan. Looks like a similar situation with the Helga Ingstad. Seems like it might have been more prudent to lay down the track further away from the tanker terminal. Or alternatively had a more robust watch.

Likely none of the watches for routine watches at sea would have much more expertise in traffic then a merchant ship with the third mate on watch.


So true. As Master, having an accident in U.S. waters can be a career-ending event. That is, if you get away lightly.


US courts are not biased against foreigners. That is absolute nonsense.

The rule of law is strong in the US and there is almost no corruption in the courts.

As the US fleet has been outsourced to flags of convenience manned by $600 a month third world villagers,the US has understandably lost its maritime culture.

Judges are normally assigned to cases by rotation without regard to subject matter expertise. Most judges have no maritime knowledge.


Norway actually has three nationals on the EPA Fugitives list https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/epa-fugitives

Whole story smells like rotten fish.