Tanker Sola and Norwegian navy frigate Helga Ingstad collide off Norway

An article in Defence News doesn’t bring up anything new:

There are some factual mistake thought. Here is a couple in one sentence:

No she had not just entered waters bustling with commercial shipping, she had been sailing for several hours along the inshore fairway, where there are a lot of commercial shipping, ferries, fishing boats and maybe even some pleasure crafts. It is also more confined waters than Hjeltefjorden.

The visibility was good, with clear, dry weather.

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I think the COLREGs are clear, i.e, every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision . And every vessel shall at all times proceed at a safe speed so that she can take proper and effective action to avoid collision and be stopped within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions. Furthermore vessels must use all available means to determine the risk of a collision , including the use of radar (if available) to get early warning of the risk of collision by radar plotting or equivalent systematic observation of detected objects. (e.g. ARPA, AIS). If the distance of any vessel is reducing and [her compass bearing is not changing much or it is a large vessel or towing vessel at close distance, or if there is any doubt, then a risk of collision shall be deemed to exist. And of course - when two power-driven vessels are meeting head-on both must alter course to starboard so that they pass on the port side of the other.
It seems M/T Sola TS noticed the other ship and turned starboard to avoid KNM Helge Ingstad (HI) which turned port in the last moment. HI was then structurally damaged in the collision that followed and sank after a while. I wonder why you need 14 Norwegian marine incident investigators to conclude that HI was 100% at fault. I also wonder why nobody has been arrested and jailed for this serious incident that could have caused a big oil spill, fire and loss of lives, if HI had ripped open MT Sola TS.

Maybe because they didn’t think of the obvious; call on you to supply your superior expertise on all things nautical. (A one-man circus)

Maybe because there were no big spill ,no fire and no loss of life?
Besides, Norway is a Maritime nation of Law and doesn’t arrest people for things that didn’t happen.


For me the time from departure terminal to collision of 15 min is significant particularly as they also had to swing the vessel 180 deg. Did the pilot look for southbound traffic prior to departure or was it a case of same old routine, differnent day? In addition, why did not VYS warn Sola that there were vessels in the area (northbound and southbound) and advise him to delay departure?

So you think the HI port turn in front of Sola TS was correct as per COLREG?
Imagine if Sola TS had really turned more starboard a little earlier and HI had hit the Sola TS port side instead of the Sola TS bow!
It could have developed in a real disaster! HI ripping open Sola TS side, cargo oil flowing out, cargo oil catching fire, both ships catching fire and plenty seamen and sailors dying. Most oil tanker collisions/spills/fires/people dying are just stupid incidents. I investigated 100’s of them 1990/3 at IMO.
Anyway, we agree there was a collision, nobody died and nobody so far is arrested for anything. Why not? But a friend of mine, a Captain of a ship that just contacted a rock, while passing an island was later arrested and sentenced to jail and now serves 16 years in jail for it !!! Of course his ship was never seaworthy but who cares today about safety at sea?

Looking at this though the lens of COLREGs is not going to shed much light on this incident.

In effect they bridge team “saw” the tanker but because of the deck lights and terminal lights did not comprehend that it was a tanker underway.

The bridge team is not going to apply COLREGs to what they believe is a tanker terminal.

The late turn to port would have been seen at the time as in extremis.

So the HI bridge team thought that HI was running straight up and into the fixed terminal on shore with a tanker at rest alongside and turned port to avoid a collision??? Please, give me a break. Haven’t you understood that the collision took place in the fairway almost half a mile outside the terminal?

It’s in the report:

It was a clear night when ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’ sailed southwards along Hjeltefjorden, and the lights
from the Sture terminal must have been visible from afar. When the terminal first became visible
from ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’, ‘Sola TS’ was alongside at the terminal. Because the crew on ‘Sola TS’
were preparing for departure, the deck of the tanker was well-lit. At a distance it would be difficult
to separate the lights on the tanker from the lights at the terminal. Also, the lights did not move as
the tanker was still alongside quay. It is highly probable that both these factors gave the crew on
> ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’ the impression early on that the lights belonged to a stationary object.
After the watch change at around 03:40–03:45, this was the basis for the bridge crew’s
understanding of the situation. Even though ‘Sola TS’ left the quay at around that time, there
continued to be little relative movement of the lights as the tanker turned from a southerly to a
northerly course. The tanker’s use of deck lights after departure also meant that the crew on 'KNM
> Helge Ingstad’ were unable to spot the navigation lights on ‘Sola TS’.
When ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’ at approximately 04:00 stated that they could not turn to starboard**, it**
> was based on a continued perception of the lights as being stationary and that a turn to starboard
would send them straight into the lit object. They also believed that they were communicating with
one of the three northbound vessels that they were monitoring on the radar. It was not until just after
this that the crew on ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’ became aware that they were on collision course, at
which time it was impossible to avoid a collision.

On a radar land is steady with no trails, moving objects have trails. If they had plotted the position at 3:55 (strange time) 5-6 minutes before the collision, they must have seen that there was no stationary object ahead of them on the present course. If HI had the radar on and AIS on receiving, they would have seen the movement of Sola TS that lasted for 15 minutes before the collision.

Yes, I have read the report. HI bridge crew thought that they were heading into a stationary object on shore at the Sture terminal and turned port at the last moment to avoid running up on land. 14 Norwegian marine incident investigators have interviewed the bridge crew and think it sounds good. And then the frigate sank due to a design fault. Case closed!

17 knots in a frigate is not the same as 17 knots in a merchant ship. Unless the performance of a modern frigate has changed drastically since I served in one a frigate should be able to take all way off from 17 knots in not much more than a couple of ship’s lengths.

Synopsis :

02:40 : KNM Helge Ingstad reported entering VTS area to Fedje VTS, maintaining watch on VTS working channel,

03:00 : POB,

(note; Sola TS pilot never heard that communication)

03:13: Sola TS pilot called Fedje VTS that they were starting to unmoor. Fedje VTS confirmed «receiving» information,

(note; Fedje VTS should’ve given the traffic info to Sola TS , specially for the southbound vessel with no transmitting AIS. VTS could’ve allowed Sola TS to unmoor & maneuver but to remain within the harbor limit until the traffic was clear, prior to proceed on her route. VTS should’ve notified Helge Ingstad and or all other traffic that a tanker vessel was preparing to get underway from Sture terminal )

03:40 : During Helge Ingstad handover, an object was observed with a lot of light that lay still beside or just outside Sture terminal,

(note; comparing a visual compass bearing against an ECDIS bearing of Sture terminal would have confirmed that «lot of lights standing still beside or just outside the terminal» was actually the tanker proceeding, not the terminal, as transmitted by the VTS on the working channel)

03:45 : Sola TS pilot reported to Fedje VTS that the tanker was departing from the Sture terminal and heading west out Fedjeosen. On departure, Sola TS lanterns and deck lights was illuminated,

(note; only the safety deck lights shining aft should’ve be switched on)

03:55 : Ongoing Helge Ingstad OOW took over the watch,

03:57 : Sola TS Pilot observed a southbound vessel on the radar without AIS,

03:58 : Pilot called Fedje VTS and requesting information on southbound vessel. VTS had «no» information to give. Sola TS tries to contact southbound vessel with Aldis lamp. Pilot order a 10 degree starboard turn to 000 °,

04:00 : Fedje VTS called Sola TS and informed the pilot that the southbound vessel was «possibly» KNM Helge Ingstad. Shortly after, Sola TS pilot called Helge Ingstad advising them to swing over to starboard right away. Helge Ingstad reported that they could not swing starboard before they had passed the object they had on starboard side,

04:00 : Helge Ingstad was 400 m from Sola TS. As Helge Ingstad was not changing course, both the pilot and Fedje VTS called up Helge Ingstad demanding to do something. Shortly after, Sola TS put her propulsion full astern while Helge Ingstad did an evasive maneuver to port, but it was too late and the vessels collided.

Fedje VTS … :sleeping:

VTS procedures deficiencies and Collision Regulations not known or applied as should. There should be a precautionary area & notes surrounding an oil terminal…


I think on HI, no radar, no plotting, no lookout.

  1. If they had the radar on they would have seen how far they were from the land, they would also have seen the trails of all the ships moving.

  2. If they had been plotting they would have known that they were north of Sture terminal, so the light could not come from there, also they would know how far from land they were.

  3. When a lookouts see Sture terminal between 03:40-04:00, although maybe hard to distinguish Sola TS among the lights of the terminal, they should see her when she turn 90 degrees to port to depart, as the lights of Sola TS aft-deck at that time are not facing HI. The bearing of the lights of Sola TS are going from stb to port, leaving an empty space of darkness between the terminal and the vessel so should be reported as crossing traffic from stb. At least 5 minutes she is crossing traffic. They should also see all the deck lights that suddenly start to face against them a few minutes later as Sola TS turns 90 degrees to port to go north.

Also Sola TS should have seen and plotted HI on the radar earlier.

Are you sure? It is a stealth ship, so maybe it does not show on radar very well from a distance.

See “Fridtjof Nansen -class frigate” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stealth_ship#Ships_with_moderate_radar_cross-section_reduction

A number of design features were incorporated in order to reduce the radar cross section of these frigates, and thus increase their survivability. However the Fridtjof Nansen class ships are not true stealth vessels.

Also HI is seen on the VTS radars.

It seems that the pilot on Sola TS talked to the HI and suggested that HI turned starboard as per COLREG. Sola TS same time turned starboard and reduced speed, while HI turned port just in front of Sola TS. HI was then ripped open on its starboard side and watertight compartments were up-flooded. More compartments were progressively flooded through openings in the bulkheads so HI sank.
Luckily HI didn’t contact Sola TS’ port side, which could have resulted in the Sola TS upper side and deck being sliced off breaching the cargo tanks, flooding the double hull with oil, spilling oil into the sea, etc, maybe also catching fire. When ships collide with the side of tankers, most frequently the structural damages of the tanker is only above waterline, where a 2 meters wide double hull down to the bilge doesn’t provide much protection. B/5 wide protection at the top and single hull at the bilge is much better protection.

Many similarities between this incident and the two U.S. navy collisions. Most like the Fitzgerald, attention focused to port, danger to stbd.

The fact that the HI “should have” avoided the collision is not in dispute.

That is true, but HI was there on the radar earlier, and could have been plotted earlier.