We translated the communications and radar video as published by Verdens Gand to English.
‘We have hit an unknown object’ – Radio and radar comms from HNM Helge Ingstad
The Norwegian frigate HNM Helge Ingstad, NATO designation F313, collided with the fully loaded tanker Sola TS in Hjeltefjorden, north of Bergen, Norway, on November 8, 2018. FWM translated the radio communication during the accident.
The HNM Helge Ingstad is on of Norway’s five Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate. It is the might of the Royal Norwegian Navy and the main contribution by Norway to NATO. Other than that, Norway has six submarines, six fast corvettes made of glass fibre/carbon composite material and a number of coastal guard ships, mine sweepers and small attack boats.
“Takes command”. The defence magazine Forsvarets forum No. 2, 2017, praised the female navigators, who are now a majority on the bridge of HNM Helge Ingstad.
It has been a frantic topic of discussion on how the HNM Helge Ingstad, stuffed with all sorts of sensors, could collide with a 250 meter tanker in clear weather and in a maritime passage that is constantly monitored by a sea command centre.
In the video with communication and radar logs, published by Verdens Gang, it is obvious that HNM Helge Ingstad is oblivious to the imminent threat, although both the command centre (VTS) and the tanker Sola TS warn of an imminent collision and instruct the frigate to change course immediately. We also noted that the frigate had not turned on it’s transponder.
Logs show that the tanker put the engines to full reverse and tried to communicate with the frigate, including sending light signals in morse code, to prevent the collision. The logs from Sola TS show that they could see the frigate approaching in the night, with it’s green and red lanterns turned on. Seconds from the collision, they could only see the red lantern, indicating that HNM Helge Ingstad had swung to port side, counter to the instructions it had been given and to the maritime rules that each ship should always turn to starboard side in cases like this.
One minute before the collision, HNM Helge Ingstad was instructed by the Sola TS to “Turn starboard, right away”, but replied that it would then go “too close to the daymarks”. Which daymarks the frigate was referring to, is unclear, since the waters are unobstructed, with the nearest shore or reef at least one kilometre away.
The frigate sustained heavy damage and the first responders on scene could see a huge tear, 45 meters long, right into the machine room. The crew intentionally ran the ship aground to stop it from sinking, but to no avail. There were extensive attempts to hold the ship in place by chains anchored to the rock ashore, but one after the other the chains snapped as the ship filled with water, and it eventually sank until only the top part of the structure was visible above the waterline.
The 250 meter was fully loaded and collided at 7 knots head on with HNM Helge Ingstad, travelling at 17 knots. It appears that the frigate was lifted up by Sola TS’ bulbous bow and then pressed against the anchor hawsehole. The tanker also sustained some damage: A 90 x 60 cm hole in the side and some bent railing, but all the damages were above the water line, allowing the ship to proceed to its destination.
Sola TS sustained some damage, but above the water line. The Anchor hawsehole is visibly worn. Photo: Helge Mikalsen
According the Norwegian Navy, the ship now rests stable, but there is constant fear that it will slip further into the fjord, where the depth is 50 meters. On the evening of November 26, there was a warning of an approaching storm with strong winds for several days, prompting the Navy to cease underwater works at the hull. They ordered an additional 200 tons of chain to secure the sunken ship. Some 180 tons of chains had already been ordered previously.
Storm on the way to Norway, increasing the risk of the frigate slipping deeper into the water. Photo: StormGeo
The plan is to lift the ship with two large maritime cranes, an operation that will take days or weeks, as the ship has to be emptied of water during the process. Later, it will be transported to a ship yard, where the damages to the hull and expensive electronics will be evaluated.
In the meantime, the crew from HNM Helge Ingstad has set sail again. They have left Bergen on the sister frigate HNM Roald Amundsen. The whole crew of 134 has been transferred in order to “get used to life onboard again after the dramatic collision”.
They are reported to have access to physicians and psychologists, and will little by little get comfortable with sea duty again.
The HNM Helge Ingstad has repeatedly been praised for its gender equality by the Navy and feminists, as four out of five navigators on board are female.
Another collision between a 50-metre-long naval ship and a 5-metre-long yacht, described by Norwegian defence officials as ”very unfortunate” have marred efforts to lift the shipwrecked frigate KMN Helge Ingstad.
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