Wrecked Norwegian Frigate Had U.S. Navy Trainee Aboard
The Norwegian ministry of defense has confirmed that a U.S. Navy trainee officer was on board the frigate Helge Ingstad, which collided with a merchant tanker November 8 and sank several days after. The American trainee was on the vessel's bridge at the time of the collision, but did not have an independent operational role, according to the Norwegian Navy.
The service has declined to provide further information about the U.S. Navy servicemembers' activities at the time of the incident, nor about overall manning levels on the bridge. However, the West police district has confirmed that the entire bridge team was questioned after the accident.
NATO has confirmed that the Helge Ingstad was "sailing inner Fjords for navigation training" at the time of the casualty.
Newly-released audio from the Vedje VTS center shows that the Ingstad was repeatedly warned of the impending collision and was asked to turn to starboard. Her wachstanders responded in Norwegian, saying that a starboard turn would bring her too close to other vessels. VTS data (below) suggests that the Ingstad had additional vessel traffic off her port bow, but not to starboard.
[Audio in Norwegian; the Ingstad is the unidentified vessel headed south-southeast at 17 knots]
After the collision, tugs pushed the Ingstad onto shore near Equinor's Sture oil terminal, a short distance from the accident site. Over the course of the next few days, salvors attempted to secure the frigate's hull with steel cables to prevent her from sliding into deeper water. However, the cables gradually parted, and she listed over and sank until only her radar tower protruded from the water.
The Norwegian Navy hopes to raise the Ingstad and bring her to the naval base at Haakonsvern. Two heavy lift crane vessels, the Rambiz and the Gulliver, have been mobilized to the site. "The plan is to gradually lift the vessel and transfer it to a submersible barge," said Thomas Wedervang, the Norwegian armed forces' salvage chief for the operation.
Before lifting, the salvage team plans to remove fuel from the Ingstad's tanks to prevent further pollution. Diving contractor SubseaPartner has deployed the dive support vessel Risøy to the site, and it will conduct the defueling operation. The frigate had about 120,000 gallons of fuel aboard at the time of the casualty.