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SAR Response After Hurtigruten Ship Loses Power off Norwegian Coast

Kong Harald lost propulsion power and issued distress call on Norwegian coast
Kong Harald lost propulsion power and issued a distress call (Hurtigruten)

Published Aug 25, 2021 6:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

A Hurtigruten coastal cruise ship lost propulsion power traveling along a notoriously difficult portion of the Norwegian coastline last evening, prompting a search and rescue response from Norwegian maritime authorities, fishing vessels, and an OSV in the area. After drifting and later anchoring, the cruise ship was able to recover, but the Norwegian authorities are investigating the incident.

It began shortly before 9:00 p.m. August 24 when the 11,200 gross ton Kong Harald issued a distress call reporting that it had lost propulsion power and was drifting toward the coast. At the time the vessel was in an area known as Hustadvika traveling southbound from Kristiansund to Molde. It was the same area where in 2019 another cruise ship, the Viking Sky, also suffered a power failure and numerous passengers were injured while the vessel was tossed in heavy seas before a rescue could be affected. 

The Kong Harald was carrying 236 passengers along with 70 crew. Several passengers reported to the local media seeing black smoke before the ship went quiet, which was their first indication of a problem. Seas were reported to be very rough with poor visibility and a stiff gale. 

The Norwegian Maritime Directorate today was full of praise for the captain and crew along with the SAR teams for their response. With no propulsion power, the captain used the vessel’s thrusters to maneuver it into a safer position to await assistance and they were eventually able to anchor. 

The SAR operation was complicated by the difficult weather. Four helicopters were dispatched as well as five vessels from the Norwegian coastguard. Adding to the drama another rescue vessel, the Oyvon, carrying a crew of four grounded, damaging its keel and requiring its own rescue.

After about 45 minutes, the Kong Harald reported that it had been able to restart one of its main engines. The passenger ship was able to proceed to Molde escorted by the OSV KL Saltfjord, which had also offered to provide towing assistance if needed. The Kong Harald spent the night on the dock in Molde and earlier today inspectors from the Norwegian Maritime Directorate boarded the ship and pieced together the events leading up to the power failure.

Before the Kong Harald departed Kristiansund earlier in the evening, engineers discovered a leak in the port main engine’s cooling water system and took the engine offline for repairs. The repairs took longer than expected. Operating on its starboard main engine, after 8:00 p.m. an alarm sounded for high exhaust temperatures on the starboard main engine, and efforts to reduce the torque were not successful. At 8:39 p.m. the starboard main engine shut down leaving the Kong Harald with no propulsion power. Investigators determined today that the problem was caused by a worn control arm in the fuel system.

The Norwegian Maritime Directorate reported that the worn part has been replaced today in both engines and they then tested the ship. DNV as the vessel’s class society also attended and the Kong Harald was certified and resumed its voyage on the afternoon on August 25.

Among the questions that the Norwegian authorities want to investigate were the maintenance routines and why the worn part was not detected before failure. They are also investigating the risk assessments and the process taken before the departure from Kristiansund especially in light of having one motor offline for repairs. In 2020, Hurtigruten’s risk assessment process was also criticized in the investigations after the COVID-19 outbreak aboard one of its expedition cruise ships. The Norwegian Maritime Directorate also said it would hand over its findings to Norway’s Accident Investigation Board.