Line hit by 29 accidents in five years

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Norway’s coastal shipping line, Hurtigruten, is popular with residents and visitors alike despite being unusually accident prone. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) tallied up 29 accidents, albeit most of them minor, in the past five years before the line’s MS Nordlys caught fire this week.

DN also reported that Hurtigruten received an official reprimand from Norwegian maritime authorities (Sjøfartsdirektoratet) and a fine of NOK 300,000 after its vessel MS Kong Harald grounded while sailing between Ålesund and Molde in April of this year. In the report recently filed on the grounding, the authorities wrote that it was “serious” and “could have been prevented.”

The fire on board the Nordlys, which killed two persons and injured 16 on Thursday, was most likely caused by an explosion in the engine room, according to the fire chief of Ålesund, where the stricken vessel docked. It was the latest in a string of mishaps for Hurtigruten including 12 groundings and another, less serious, fire.

In April, maritime authorities also carried out a fire inspection on the Nordlys itself. Hurtigruten received three warnings of errors that quickly were corrected, according to Dag Inge Aarhus of Sjøfartsdirektoratet. The vessel also faces a relatively modest fine for a minor oil and diesel spill, reported DN.

Hurtigruten spokesman Ragnar Norum conceded that “from our point of view, there were too many incidents during the first half of this year. We have full focus on this and don’t see any connections among the incidents, but they hit hard.”

The vessel Nordlys, which was threatening to capsize at the pier Friday morning but later was stabilized, is owned by the Bergen-based shipping company Kirberg, which in turn is backed by, among others, the Odfjell shipowning family. Kirberg bought the vessel from Hurtigruten in 2002 and leased it back to the line on a 15-year charter contract, which remains responsible for making charter payments even when the vessel is out of service.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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