Hurtigruten ship ran aground

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Norway’s coastal shipping line Hurtigruten suffered another accident Monday night, this one rather embarrassing, admitted the captain involved. While showing tourists the opening of the famous Trollfjord on the eastern end of the Lofoten peninsula, the vessel ran aground.

The Hurtigruten vessel 'Kong Harald' grounded at the mouth of the Trollfjord during the night, but was cleared to sail back to Svolvær. PHOTO: Hurtgruten

The Hurtigruten vessel ‘Kong Harald’ grounded at the mouth of the Trollfjord during the night, but was cleared to sail back to Svolvær. PHOTO: Hurtgruten

“This isn’t any fun, but what can I say,” Brynjar Ulvøy, captain on board the Hurtigruten vessel Kong Harald, told reporters Tuesday after arriving back at Svolvær on Lofoten. “Everyone can have an accident in their cars, too.”

For Ulvøy, though, it was particularly aggravating because he’s so familiar with the area and the accident occurred right where he grew up. “I know the area like the back of my hand,” he told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “The grounding occurred at a spot not far from my home. That’s a bit special, yeah.”

A Hurtigruten ship inside the Trollfjord on an earlier occasion, showing how narrow it is. PHOTO: Hurtigruten

A Hurtigruten ship inside the Trollfjord on an earlier occasion, showing how narrow it is. PHOTO: Hurtigruten

He stressed that the grounding just before midnight was “absolutely not dramatic” and there were no injuries nor any major damage done to the vessel. It did wake up passengers, though, and all were ordered to get dressed quickly and assemble on deck.

There were 258 passengers and 57 crew members on board when the Kong Harald, making its regularly scheduled northbound sailing, maneuvered close to the entrance of the extremely narrow Trollfjord.

“We never sail into the Trollfjord in the winter, but we sail close to the mouth so tourists can see the fjord,” Hurtigruten spokesman Ragnar Norum, told NRK. The scenic fjord, only 70 meters wide at its entry point, is one of the highlights of the voyage along Norway’s coast.

Suddenly, according to a passenger on board, there was “a loud noise” and the vessel “was standing on land, at a fine spot with small stones and a sandy bottom.” There the vessel remained until it could maneuver off its perch around three hours later with the help of high tides and several support vessels standing by. Both a Coast Guard vessel and a search and rescue vessel arrived quickly, and a Sea King helicopter was standing by at Helle Airport if needed.

Divers from the military inspected the vessel around 4am and cleared it for sailing back to Svolvær, where it arrived on Tuesday before it was to be sent to a shipyard in Ålesund for repairs to its bow. Hurtigruten officials said there was never a need for evacuation and that both passengers and crew were in no danger, though somewhat inconvenienced by the abrupt change of itinerary.

Hurtigruten ships are known for their maneuverability and year-round sailings in often stormy seas, but have suffered a rash of mishaps in recent years. The company was planning an immediate investigation into what went wrong this time, and the grounding would be reported to Norway’s maritime directorate.

Passenger Ernst Norbakken, traveling from Bodø to Finnsnes in Troms with his wife, praised the conduct and helpfulness of the crew on board but didn’t know how their trip would continue. He told NRK there were many British and German tourists on board, and Hurtigruten officials were making new travel arrangements for them. The next day’s ship heading north reportedly was fully booked, so there would be no room for them on board.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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