New accident hits Hurtigruten

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As salvage crews began the work of unloading the stricken Hurtigruten ship hit by fire last week, another vessel in the Norwegian coastal shipping line had an accident at Båtsfjord in the far north. That vessel, however, was able to continue its voyage to Kirkenes where it could be repaired.

This Hurtigruten vessel, which starred in a popular TV documentary on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) last summer, was damaged in an accident over the weekend but allowed to continue its journey. PHOTO: Hurtigruten/NRK

This time, reports local newspaper Finnmarken, it was the MS Nord-Norge that ran into trouble when it collided with a loading ramp at Båtsfjord in the northern county of Finnmark.

The accident occurred during the early morning hours of Sunday and was immediately reported to maritime authorities.

They inspected the vessel on Sunday and cleared it for sailing despite a 13-centimeter hole in the vessel’s bow. It wasn’t considered a hazard, however, since it was high above the waterline. The vessel proceeded to Vadsø and Kirkenes, where the damage could be repaired.

“We view this as an accident, which of course shouldn’t occur,” Hurtigruten spokesman Ragnar Norum told Finnmarken. As reported last week, the line has suffered a long string of accidents, most of them minor, in recent years.

The vessel involved is the same one that starred in Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s wildly popular television documentary in June that covered a Hurtigruten ship’s entire six-day voyage along the coast from Bergen to Kirkenes.

‘Nordlys’ salvage underway
Meanwhile, farther south in Ålesund, salvage and clean-up crews were working to unload passenger belongings, food and other cargo off the MS Nordlys, which was struck by fire in its engine room late last week. The vessel had to be quickly evacuated and its 262 passengers and crew had to leave all their belongings behind during an emergency evacuation.

Two crew members were killed in the fire, 18-year-old Steffen Ulvatne from Honningsvåg and 57-year-old Geir Terje Isaksen of Tverlandet, both of whom were working in the area where the fire broke out. Sixteen other crew members were injured, two of them suffering serious burns. The fire initially was said to be explosive in nature, but inspectors said after being on board during the weekend that they could see no sign of an explosion. They believed the fire rather began inside the vessel’s main motor.

As clean-up began, perishables such as seafood cargo that was due to be distributed along the coast had to be thrown out. Crews assisted by police were also preparing to go through passenger cabins to collect and mark personal belongings to return them to their rightful owners. Many passengers have stayed in Ålesund in the hopes of retrieving luggage, mobile phones and other valuables left on board.

There were fears through the day on Friday that the vessel would capsize at the pier where it tied up after being guided into Ålesund, still ablaze. The vessel had taken on both water from fire-fighting efforts and seawater, but salvage crews managed to prevent the vessel from tipping over on its side.

They were stymied in efforts, however, to turn the ship to open its main entrance to the vehicle area. NRK reported that the hatch isn’t functioning because of the lack of electricity on the badly damaged vessel. Crews could only open a smaller hatch on the starboard side, meaning they couldn’t get large vehicles off the ship.

The Nordlys was due to eventually be towed to a shipyard for repairs.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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