When a Norwegian sailor on the bridge of the Norwegian frigate Helge Ingstad was asked the size of the crew on board, right after the frigate had collided with a tanker, he can clearly be heard reporting “134” on tapes of the marine traffic log. The number was even repeated, yet the official number of those on board has been set at 137 since the collision on November 8. The extra three are now believed to have been Americans, but no one will say what they were doing on board.
Newspaper Bergens Tidende (BT) reported the Americans’ presence just before the weekend, and that Norway’s state accident investigations board has sent a letter to US Naval Forces Europe. The contents of the letter have been withheld but BT reported that it poses questions about the collision in Øygarden northeast of Bergen.
Neither accident investigators, defense officials nor the police would answer questions themselves about the Americans’ presence or mission on board. The frigate, returning from NATO’s huge Trident Juncture exercise off Trondheim, was under NATO command at the time of the collision and US Admiral James Foggo was himself on board four days before the collision, accompanied by several other Americans.
NATO has reported that the vessel was carrying out navigation training when it allegedly was on a collision course with the fully laden tanker Sola ST, and failed to respond to urgent requests to change course.
Norwegian media reported during the weekend, meanwhile, that defense officials were worried the now mostly-sunken tanker would drift into deeper waters after efforts to secure it failed last week. New efforts were being made to hoist the frigate onto a barge and take it to the Norwegian naval base Haakonsvern in Bergen.