Same motor, but still sailing

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UPDATED: Four other ships in the Hurtigruten line have the same motor as the one that caught fire on board the MS Nordlys last week. Hurtigruten officials, however, see no reason to pull them out of service so they’re sailing as usual along the Norwegian coast. Meanwhile, the heavily damaged Nordlys was towed to a shipyard for repairs on Wednesday.

The Hurtigruten vessel "MS Richard With" is a sistership of the stricken "MS Nordlys," but hasn't been taken out of service. PHOTO: Hurtigruten

The other vessels with the same motor as the Nordlys include its sisterships Kong Harald and Richard With, along with the Nordkapp and Nord-Norge.

“It’s correct that they have the same motor,” Hurtigruten chief executive Olav Fjell told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Tuesday. “We have evaluated whether the fire on the Nordlys should have any consequences for these ships, but together with the supplier of the motor we have decided that the other ships can continue in normal traffic.”

“Given the indications we now have about what caused the fire, there’s no reason for any special measures,” Fjell added. “The motors have operated problem-free for 20 years and the maker has also delivered very many other motors.”

The "Nordlys'" other sistership, Hurtigruten's "MS Kong Harald" is also sailing as usual along the Norwegian coast. PHOTO: Hurtigruten

State officials investigating the cause of the fire have not delivered any formal conclusions as yet but their leader has already said there were no signs of “explosions” in the engine room despite initial reports from those on board that the fire seemed explosive in nature. The fire killed two crew members in the engine room and left two others with serious burns, while 14 more suffered smoke inhalation and minor injuries.

The fire set off a human, environmental and economic drama as the stricken ship was towed to a pier in Ålesund, still burning, after most passengers had been evacuated in life boats. Then the vessel threatened to capsize at the dock, which would have resulted in huge economic losses and a potential environmental crisis given all the oil on board the ship and debris a capsizing would have sent into the water.

“It was extremely important for us to prevent that from happening,” Fjell told DN, even though the vessel was fully insured. “We could have faced acute danger of pollution and all the passengers’ belongings would have been lost. These are things that were much more important than our own economic worries.”

Passengers, many of them elderly and from many different countries, have praised the actions of the crew, the orderly evacuation of the ship and how Hurtigruten staff have attended to their needs since the fire broke out on Thursday morning. While some analysts have claimed the fire may damage Hurtigruten’s reputation, the passengers themselves have given the shipping line high marks in a variety of media interviews. “They’ve done an outstanding job taking care of us,” one man from the US said on NRK’s national nightly news program Dagsrevyen Monday evening, after having his belongings returned intact from his abandoned cabin on board the ship.

Highly trained salvage crews from the Dutch firm Smit in Rotterdam also were winning praise from many involved in the drama around the Nordlys. They are credited with preventing the ship from capsizing, and probably saving maritime insurer Gard more than NOK 100 million. Smit’s “salvage master,” “naval architect” and a team of six more persons went on board to carry out critical pumping work when the ship was listing to 22 degrees, placing them firmly among the drama’s heroes.

It remains unclear how long Nordlys will be out of service, but repairs are expected to take at least six months. The vessel was to be towed on Tuesday from Ålesund to the Fiskerstrand shipyard at Sula, for closer inspection and damage assessment, but the time needed to unload the vessel delayed the tow until Wednesday. NRK covered the vessel’s trip to the yard under tow, with video available here (external link, in Norwegian). Fjell said initial repairs would also be carried out at Fiskerstrand.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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