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HNoMS Helge Ingstad

The head of NATO's Joint Operating Headquarters in Naples (Italy), Admiral James G. Foggo, inspected the crew aboard HNoMS Helge Ingstad 05 November 2018 and thanked them for their effort so far. The Norwegian frigate was on a search for submarines in the sea north west of Trondheim when the admiral came to visit. " I have been following you for a couple of weeks now, and you have made a formidable effort during Trident Juncture. I would like to thank you for the work you are doing and for your contribution in making NATO even better." The frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad is part of SNMG1, one of NATO's standing maritime reaction forces. Commander Preben Ottesen and his crew aboard the Norwegian frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad, are proud to represent the Norwegian flag in NATO.

Eight people were injured when the KNM Helge Ingstad and the tanker Sola TS collided off Norway’s western coast, putting a not-so-great finish on the much touted Trident Juncture 2018 drills – the largest exercise hosted by Norway since the 1980s and the largest that NATO has held in decades. The collision took place at 04:03 on Thursday morning 08 November 2018 in Hjeltefjord, north of Sotra. The frigate KNM Helge Ingstad collided with the oil tanker Sola TS. The frigate remained under way and a salvage operation was prepared. All 137 people who were on board the vessel were evacuated. Two were in hospital, two were on duty and the rest were being taken care of by the Armed Forces.

KNM "Helge Ingstad" had participated in the exercise Trident Juncture off the coast of Trøndelag and was on its way back to the base of Haakonsvern in Bergen when the accident occurred. Along the way, the frigate had turned on the positioning system sometimes, but not when the accident occurred. It is not common for warships to sail with the automatic identification system AIS at all times. Unlike civilian ships, no military vessel is required to have the transmitter on.

After the two ships collided, there was a danger that the frigate "Helge Ingstad" would sink. It was therefore decided to move the frigate to a more suitable place, and the Armed Forces used tugboats to get the vessel inland. The wreck was fastened to land with cables, to prevent the ship from sinking further. The vaults were attached to metal pipes blasted three meters down the mountain. On 13 November 2018, the Coast Administration reported that several of the wires had parted. The ship sank further into the water. Within a few hours, only the radar tower rose from the sea. The rest of the billion kroner frigate was under water.

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KNM Helge Ingstad - November 2018 KNM Helge Ingstad - November 2018

How a contemporary warship could collide with a small civilian tanker in clear weather and calm seas remains a tough question for the Navy to answer. Military personnel were mostly reticent about the incident, and multiple investigations are underway. Maritime experts, such as retired Commander Jacob Borresen, found the collision 'inexplicable'. "The fact that it happened in this particular area is incomprehensible. Here we have a traffic centre packed with radar monitoring equipment reading transponder signals from all the vessels in the area. The frigate had state-of-the-art radar equipment and infrared optical systems. How is it possible that the vessels didn't see each other?" a puzzled Børresen wondered in an interview with NRK.

The collision occurred just outside an oil terminal at Oygarden in Hordaland, resulting in a halt in all shipping activity during the rescue operation, as several important oil and gas fields in the North Sea were closed. In total, these five oil and gas fields combined produce around NOK 400 million ($48 million) a day or NOK 17 million ($2 million) an hour. Since the oil companies pay 78 percent taxes to the state for production, the shutdown ultimately resulted in a substantial economic loss for the nation, national broadcaster NRK reported.

The accident triggered speculations that helicopters stored under the deck may have been ruined together with other sensitive equipment in the engine room. Nansen-class frigates cost the Norwegian state coffers about NOK 3.5 billion ($420 million) each, not counting the helicopters. For the sake of comparison, the Norwegian parliament granted NOK 4.1 billion ($490 million) to the entire Navy in 2018.

Operation for raising the partly sunken frigate HNoMS "Helge Ingstad" started early morning on Tuesday 26 February 2019. The operation was estimated to take five–six days. The operation to raise the ship out of the water has been complex, and it has been postponed several times due to rough weather conditions. In order to raise the frigate safely, wind and waves must be calm for 5–6 consecutive days. Maximum wave height must not exceed 0.5 meters.

Forecasts indicated that the needed weather window occurs now – and the operation was initiated early morning Tuesday 26 February. During the first phase of the operation, most of the work was conducted under water. Two barges anchored up next to the frigate. Since the accident in November, divers and personnel had been working to pull several lifting chains around the hull. Four large hoists on the two barges slowly lifted the frigate from the seabed.

The frigate was raised onto a sub-surface barge, which was raised to the surface. Aboard the barge, HNoMS "Helge Ingstad" was shipped to Haakonsvern Naval Base, Bergen.

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KNM Helge Ingstad - November 2018 KNM Helge Ingstad - November 2018 KNM Helge Ingstad - November 2018

KNM Helge Ingstad - November 2018 KNM Helge Ingstad - November 2018 KNM Helge Ingstad - November 2018

KNM Helge Ingstad - November 2018 KNM Helge Ingstad - November 2018

An interim report presented 29 November 2018 by the investigation committee looking into the circumstances of the KNM Helge Ingstad's collision with a tanker on November 8 includes several 'safety-critical' findings. The commission identified 'safety-critical' conditions that must be 'immediately taken care of'. According to the report, the ship's three 'watertight' sections were filled with significantly more water than the extent of the damage, a 10-meter-long gash on the starboard side, would suggest. Propeller shafts were found to have leaked water to the machinery room, which quickly filled with water. From there, water filled other rooms in the hull.

Former flag commander Jacob Børresen described the discovery of a possible error in the frigate's watertight sections as sensational. 'I want to characterise this as a dramatic discovery. In the event of an accident or collision this means that the ship is much more vulnerable than the premise was', Børresen told NRK, explaining that the fault potentially affects the largest rooms of the ship. 'The consequences of leaking water may be critical', he added.

The 23 April 2019 annual report by the Norwegian Armed Forces provided the first estimate of the expected costs of the salvaging operation to lift the KNM Helge Ingstad. The total price tag for the salvage operation that included raising, securing and towing reached NOK 726 million ($85 million), almost 100 million more that the previous estimate provided by Norwegian Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen. The loss of the Helge Ingstad has left Norway's defence capabilities drastically weakened, the report said. The strain on the remaining four frigates has also increased as they have to sail more frequently than usual to offset the loss.

After being submerged for four months in salt water, the frigate's value was written down by NOK 2.2 billion ($260 million). This means that the KNM Helge Ingstad lost more than half of its initial value of NOK 4.3 billion ($500 million). Evaluations of how much of the equipment on board can be saved are underway. The Armed Forces is also considering selling the steel to cut the losses. "It should also be considered whether parts of the frigate can be used for the remaining vessels, or whether it is possible to sell the steel", the report said.

Repairing the frigate KNM Helge Ingstad will cost over NOK 12 billion ($1.37 billion), which is three times as much as its original cost, the newspaper Bergens Tidende reported 14 May 2019. "The cost of repairing the frigate will exceed NOK 12 billion. Building a new one will be cheaper", the damage assessment said.

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Page last modified: 26-12-2019 18:24:43 ZULU