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Norwegian Frigate Helge Ingstad Accident Report

The following is the Nov. 29, 2018 Accident Investigation Board Norway’s preliminary report of the collision between HMoS Helge Ingstad and tanker Sola TS.

From the Report

This preliminary report is published to communicate the information obtained during the initial phase of the ongoing investigation. The purpose is to provide a brief update on how the investigation is progressing as well as a preliminary description of the sequence of events and disseminate safety-critical issues identified at this stage of the investigation. This preliminary report also identifies areas that need further investigation and describes lines of investigation that will be followed up.

The accident was a complex one, involving several individuals, bridge crews, vessels, a VTS and the interaction between them. The investigation is therefore demanding in terms of time and resources. The AIBN stresses that this is a preliminary report and that it may consequently contain some errors and inaccuracies. Because of considerations relating to the duty of confidentiality, classified material and the investigation process, the AIBN does not publish all its information at the present time.

Notification of the accident
On the morning of Thursday 8 November 2018, the Accident Investigation Board Norway (AIBN) was informed of a collision between the frigate ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’ and the Maltese registered tanker ‘Sola TS’ in Hjeltefjorden, outside the Sture terminal in Øygarden Municipality in Hordaland County, Norway. The AIBN contacted the Defence Accident Investigation Board Norway (DAIBN) and it was decided to initiate a joint investigation into the accident, led by the AIBN. The AIBN then contacted the Marine Safety Investigation Unit of Malta (MSIU), which is also a participating party in the investigation; cf. Chapter 18 Section 474 of the Norwegian Maritime Code. The investigation is being conducted in accordance with Chapter 18 of the Norwegian Maritime Code and Directive 2009/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 establishing the fundamental principles governing the investigation of accidents in the maritime transport sector.

The initial phase of the investigation
In the course of the afternoon and evening of 8 November 2018, the AIBN arrived in Bergen with 14 representatives of the AIBN and the DAIBN, to initiate the investigation.

Interviews with the bridge crew on the tanker ‘Sola TS’, and the inspection of the vessel started the same day. The following day, the AIBN started its interviews with the bridge crew on the frigate ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’. The AIBN has also conducted an inspection on board a similar frigate and interviewed several engine room and operations crew on ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’. In addition, the AIBN has interviewed the pilot on board ‘Sola TS’ and personnel who were on duty at Fedje VTS.

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.

The AIBN’s initial investigation has focused on establishing a preliminary description of the sequence of events, and on mapping what took place on board ‘KNM Helge Ingstad’ and ‘Sola TS’ up until the time of the accident at 04:01, including the vessels’ communication with Fedje VTS. The purpose has been to find answers to the questions of what happened, how it happened, and what were the circumstances surrounding the accident.

The investigation team has also started to map how the accident developed after the collision up until the time when all crew had been evacuated. In that connection, the AIBN has started to collect information to get a picture of the damage to the frigate, its damage stability, damage control procedures etc.

  • RunningBear

    KNM Helge Ingstad sank because it was traveling inbound at 17kts. in a busy marine corridor at 4am (dark) with the automatic identification system/ AIS not transmitting and collided with an outbound massive tanker.

    This is similar to the recent 2 USN destroyers collisions.

    The Ingstad crew lost control of the flooding into the ship and it now sits on the bottom near the point of collision.

    – poor command of ship handling
    – hull watertight compartment design should be highly in question but….the command issue could have lead to the sinking, also.

    Fly Navy

  • NR

    According to the report the stuffing boxes failed to function as designed, leading to flooding in otherwise uncompromised compartments. They are certainly looking at this as a design flaw along with the human errors.

    • Centaurus

      Wow ! A completely incomprehensible cause /effect scan for my humble eyes.

      • ShermansWar

        What does that even mean?

        For what it’s worth, the first comment was the only worthwhile one. Design flaws on systems designed to prevent flooding are always worth taking note of, however.

        As an aside., it’s interesting to note that 2 US Destroyers were involved in similar accidents, and neither sank. The
        Norwegian frigate did. Easy case to make that the US ships are more suited to go in harms way because of design standard differences, like functional compartmentalization.

        I think this has implications worthy of consideration as the US moves ahead on it’s FFG(X) design. Do we want a ship, a WARSHIP, that can really go in harms way, and “Persist” in denied environments as the RFI states, or is it to be a jobs program? With a looming peer conflict on the horizon, it makes a difference. It could end up being a very important difference ( as China commissions it’s 50th type 56 corvette), one foreshadowing the future of the US Navy and it’s ability to be successful in upcoming conflicts

        • Centaurus

          Because the mass of contextual info had been contained in the temporarily discontinued paragraph, I really should have left well ’nuff alone and permitted the good person to come back around with their ideas and finish. Short version…:
          be quiet and just listen for a change, Mr Centaurus. Alley-oop !

        • USNVO

          It is pretty straight forward if you understand Damage Control and ship design.

          First, from previous reports, the ship has 13 watertight compartments and is was built to a two compartment standard. Without going into great detail, a two compartment standard means that any two compartments can flood and the ship will retain stability and not sink below the margin line (a line 4 inches below the main deck). A two compartment criteria is somewhat unusual for a 5,000LT ship as, at least in the USN. That would normally be a 15% floodable length criteria (used on DDG-51) but it is not unusual and not sure it would be any different.

          Three spaces were open to the sea as a result of the collision and flooded. Additionally there was uncertainty if the steering gear room was flooding. Since the four compartments are all aft and relatively small spaces (worse case is usually two large engineering spaces near the middle of the ship), the ship was OK but probably right at the margin line.

          There was progressive flooding of spaces forward of the flooded spaces as a result of the hollow shafts and faulty stuffing tubes. As a result, the ship was evacuated and ran aground. The hollow shaft seems like something they should know about but may not have. The stuffing tubes (basically small tubes where wires and pipes pass between water tight compartments) are, quite literally, stuffed with a caulk like material to keep the bulkhead watertight. They are pretty simple so if they failed, it is likely improper stuffing as opposed to a design flaw.

          As for a comparison to the DDG collisions, the USN ships are over 9000LT and collided with ships 40,000LT and 50,000LT respectively. The Ingstad is just over 5000LT and collided with a ship over 112,000LT. So half the size being hit by a ship twice as large. Making any type of comparison between the three collisions without a bunch more data is pointless. As is trying to draw some conclusion about future combat with China, that is also equally pointless unless you think they will fight a war by ramming with merchant ships (It is highly likely that a type 56 would have sunk immediately if struck in a similar fashion. Nothing against the Type 56 but it is a much smaller ship of 1500LT displacement.).

          • ShermansWar

            So you’re saying Norwegian shipbuilding standards surpass the US? I beg to differ.

            Or is it that your just fine taking a ship built to their standards into combat?

            Also, all those specs and numbers would have been a lot more pertinent had you given US standards , which you did not.

            You prefer to fight in a ship built to US standards, or those commonly used for western european non-nuclear powers?

          • Michael Lopez

            Actually they were built in Spain. They are a smaller version of the Spanish Bazan Class Large Frigate.

          • ShermansWar

            Having long been a proponent of the F100 class as a base for the FFG(X), this sinking does give pause.

            I see neither LCS based design as adequate, and fear the FREMM based ship will be too expensive, and HII presumably offering only 16 VLS, I was left with the General Dynamics/Navantia offering.It’s certainly a black eye for the Norwegian navy, and I doubt it helps the Spanish sell hulls.

          • Michael Lopez

            The Spanish version is larger, has three more watertight compartmets and uses Ballistic Steel. The Norwegian version used a milder form of steel to save costs. And the F-100 uses the full AEGIS System and a full size MK-41 VLS. The Norwegian ships use the smaller AEGIS System and only 12 VLS cells.

          • USNVO

            Not at all. USN standards are pretty much the gold standard for naval shipbuilding. The Norwegian ships, although constructed in Spain used shipbuilding standards similar to USN.

            The USN uses the same two compartment standard on numerous ships as well. I am merely saying that for a FF sized ship, a two compartment standard and a 15pct floodable length standard (as used on the USN DDGs) give you roughly the same result and I am not convinced that either is superior. Clearly, in this case the implementation of the stuffing tubes was faulty, but the standards are the same. A stuffing tube is not much different on any naval ship, except submarines, it is a tube through a watertight bulkhead stuffed with caulking. Sounds like a QA issue as opposed to a design flaw but there is no excuse for progressive flooding.

            Comparing the resiliency of a 9000 ton destroyer to a 5000 ton frigate is pointless. Yes, the DDG is more survivable, but it should be it is twice the size! The DDG is also faster, has more weapons, better redundancy, better radar, etc. It also cost over twice as much to buy, far more to operate each year, and requires over twice the manning. Not surprising. I would rather go to war in a DDG but would not feel poorly served if I had to go to war in a Norwegian Frigate. The Ingstad was hit by a ship 22 times its own size, bad things are going to happen when that happens.

          • ShermansWar

            Thanks for the input.
            For the sake of clarity, wasn’t comparing frigates to destroyers, or corvettes, rather, was point that’s been made previously about possible ffg(X) designs, the survivability of US based designs as opposed to European based designs and possible differences in survivability standards. I get the point you see them as 6 of one, half a dozen of the other,
            Myself, though no expert, I have certainly heard much made of the differences between the two, and specifically that generally speaking, European built ships adhere more to commercial standards, whereas traditionally US warships are built to a higher standards, the LCS designs notwithstanding.
            Perhaps the use of the phrase ” design flaw” was inarticulate, as the real concern is survivability, I could care less if the ship was drawn up on a table napkin.

          • El_Sid

            The internet has a huge amount of Bravo Sierra on the subject of shipbuilding specifications, mostly written out of either ignorance or a deliberate attempt to mislead. I’d treat it all with a big pinch of salt unless you know the credentials of the person – and be aware that close familiarity with eg US shipbuilding standards does not necessarily imply any kind of expertise on European standards. Just be aware that the area is complex, terms such as “higher” and “lower” are not always meaningful, and some Europeans would argue that their standards are more realistic and practical (and in some regards not “lower”, just different) than the US.

            At the end of the day, this was a small warship taking a big hit, and the “wrong” sort of hit as a glancing blow that took out a number of compartments rather than a “perpendicular” hit. Whatever happens, it would have been touch and go even if the ship had been built out of unobtainium. Possibly inexperience contributed to the original collision and to what happened afterwards, but they had lost steering and propulsion close to shore so again not easy. And don’t forget that though relatively well-funded, the entire Norwegian Navy is smaller than the crew of a single Nimitz, they don’t have the depth of resources of the USN. The weather in November at 60°N doesn’t help either.

            Build quality is something to look at though – Norway refused to accept the Nansens initially over QC concerns, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the reality of something like the stuffing boxes didn’t match what was promised in the brochure. Worth noting that the RN recently had a dispute over a similar issue in the new Tide-class tankers.

          • Hugh

            The RAN AWDs were to have been classified under Lloyds, but deficiencies were found which did not meet longitudinal strength requirements.

          • Bubblehead

            “That is a lucid, intelligent, well thought-out objection.

            Over ruled!”

          • Bubblehead

            USN ships have a very long history of surviving, what on most accounts, would sink other ships – from WW2 to present. Survivability, design, QC and training all play an important part.

            While you clearly explain the difference in tonnage between AB & Helge and the reason the AB’s survived and the Helge didn’t, keep in mind USS Stark, a 4100 ton frigate, survived a direct hit from 2 Exocet missiles.

          • El_Sid

            One of which didn’t explode, the other made a smaller hole than this tanker. Stark was also lucky to be in calm waters in close proximity to a major naval base and lots of naval support. If she and HMS Sheffield had swapped places, then Stark would have been lost and Sheffield survived.

          • Bubblehead

            Im not sure we can put British ships in the same category as the other European ships. British & American militaries are in the same mold. Wouldn’t surprise me if British ships are built to similar standards as American. And one thing we know, British sailors are very well trained and fought to the end for their ships in the Argentine conflict.

            God I wish the Type 26 had hulls in the water so it could play in the FFGX competition. When it comes out, it will no doubt be the best frigate around.

          • Hugh

            I don’t know the design of this ship, but some naval ships have prop shafts passing through bulkheads using spherical seals but others use a 3-plate labyrinth seal which is not fully watertight.

            After HMS Nottingham hit Wolf Rock at Norfolk Island in 2002 she had progressive flooding aft which stopped her propulsion.

            And what was the ability of water to flood through the hollow prop shafts?

          • USNVO

            Yeah, the whole flooding through the hollow prop shafts didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I figured it was a translation error. While the prop shaft is hollow, it is also filled with piping and lube oil and is sealed. Shouldn’t be any pathway from the flooded spaces into the hollow part of the shaft, and even then, it should be sealed at the MRG. From reading the report, but not having access to the ships diagram, it sounds like the aft generator room is directly astern of the MRG (which sounds like it is in a separate watertight compartment). The fore and aft engine rooms are in front of the reduction gear room. Since it is one of those weird two diesels, one gas turbine in, two shafts out arrangement, there are prop shafts going through the aft bulkheads and input shafts from the MPDEs and Gas Turbines through the forward bulkhead. I assumed it was more an issue of flooding around the shaft seals. Even then, it shouldn’t be flooding all that rapidly unless the shafts were misaligned by the collision and did a number on the seals. For that matter, the “stuffing tubes” referred to may be the input shafts for the propulsion diesels and gas turbine. We will have to wait for the final report to come out to get a better idea.

          • Bubblehead

            Survivability in collisions has a lot to do with war time scenarios. If a ship can’t survive a collision, it is a lot less likely to survive ASCM hit. And as we say with China last month cutting in front of our DDG, rammings are very possible. Survivability matters and the perception of European ships being paper tigers just got a big boost.

            The F11 chances of winning FFGX are effectively nill. Its too late in the game to change any designs and it would be too risky to choose F100. And FREMM just took a big hit also from the perception of European ships being un-survivable.

    • RunningBear

      Stuffing boxes have failed before without sinking a 9 year old ship.

      Could in this case, this be because the entire crew was “evacuated” and then the boat sank?

      I’m not disregarding the B.A. hole in the hull but, Gee!, abandon ship and let stuffing boxes sink it?????Nah!

      Fly Navy

    • Bubblehead

      We won’t fully know what sank the Helge (and if the same fault is in the Spanish F100 & Australian ships) until it is fully investigated. But you can bet on his, whatever the fault is, it has effectively nullified any chance of Navantia/F100 winning FFGX. The US will not gamble. USN number 1 priority in FFGX is a proven & tested design to avoid cost over runs and delays. F100 already had a slim chance of winning because of price, not a US shipbuilder & delays and cost over runs in Australia Hobarts.

      The other problem with this sinking is it proves the perception of European ships in general of being paper toys. European ships in general have never had strict survivability standards like the USN. Maybe its just perception, but perception is often reality. And this could hurt the FREMM chances.

      We the public don’t even know what Ingalls proposed for FFGX. But if it meets the requirements and is based on NSC I do not see how they lose. They win by default. Its American, it has hulls in the water and proven reliable and (in bold) it is already designed to USN survivability standards.

      • El_Sid

        it proves the perception of European ships in general of being paper
        toys. European ships in general have never had strict survivability
        standards like the USN. Maybe its just perception

        Or Bravo Sierra. This proves nothing, other than apparently confirming the suspicion that the problems with this one particular class go beyond the rust and other QC issues identified at delivery.

        • USNVO

          I would argue it tends to prove whatever confirmational bias the poster has. Beyond that, I will wait for a more detailed report.

        • Oskar

          Or, it could be correct.

          Compare the RN’s Type 21’s and 42’s, that took hits in the Falklands, to the USN ships that took hits in the Persian Gulf.

          • El_Sid

            As I said above – that was more about the difference between being a few hours from a major base in calm waters, and thousands of miles from home in the Southern Ocean. If the positions had been reversed, the Stark would have been lost and the Sheffield saved.

      • Hugh

        The RAN has vessels designed and/or built in Britain, USA, France, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Korea and Australia. There are significant differences between standards, not just between countries but also between different classes of vessels (eg leading warships, minor warships, large support ships, small support ships,) within particular countries. Our highest standards are seen to be those from the RN and USN, and comparatively the others are generally either equivalent or slightly lower though some niche aspects such as welding are updated by the parent country or classification society to the point of being claimed to be superior. In some cases, a non-RN/USN design which does not meet desired standards eg intact and damaged stability, is upgraded so as to comply. However regarding the AWDs, the last I heard, they did not comply to Lloyds regarding longitudinal strength.

  • SDW

    Thanks to you folks for commenting about the subject matter.

    One of the things that makes me wonder is why have the AIS shut down? Yes, it isn’t exactly like an aircraft IFF but there is significant similarity nonetheless.

    Anybody know or, at least, have well-founded speculation? Would it have helped even if it alone wouldn’t have prevented any of these fairly recent incidents?

    • El_Sid

      Policies vary between navies, but many navies have a policy of not disclosing the location of their ships and so keep AIS off, even though a generation of civilian mariners have grown up being completely dependent on AIS. It’s a complex area though.

      • SDW

        Hiding on your way in or out of a busy harbor doesn’t sound very wise. I don’t see why the AIS is seen as a complex problem. It has, after all, an on/off switch. The Ingstad had notified the Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) that it was inbound, turned on the navigation lights, and had a functioning AIS set to receive only.

        A military aircraft is able to turn off the commercially available IFF reply and go with the encrypted military-only reply but to do so in peacetime in a Terminal Control Area around a busy airport would be beyond stupid. It would be criminally negligent.

        It could be the USN policy (when the security posture allows) to turn on AIS when within 20nmi of entering or when outbound from a VTS-controlled port. Where’s the hurt?

  • Douglas Tastad

    The Norwegian Pilot on the tanker knew there was a vessel in a collision situation not operating per the rules of the road, but he wasted precious time on VHF. The duty of the stand-on vessel was to give the international danger signal – 5 short blasts – and he should have so informed the Captain of the Sola TS or the Captain himself should have known this and given the whistle blasts. This doesn’t mean the Naval Vessel isn’t virtually completely at fault. Reputation of stellar Norwegian seamanship takes a big hit on this one.

  • KNM Helge Ingstad sank because it turned left, instead of turning right (starboard), despite radar on board.
    The oiltanker followed the rules and turned starboard. The Norwegian Pilot on the tanker knew there was a vessel in a collision situation not operating per the rules of the sea.

    The collision remind me of the scandal between Ardrea Doria (turning left), and Stockholm (turning right)

  • tim

    IMHO, any major course change may only be done when taking other traffic into consideration. I wonder what the pilots and tanker captain were thinking when they (must have?) evaluated oncoming traffic?