Storm disrupts frigate salvage

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The Norwegian Navy faced even more problems this week in the wake of its frigate Helge Ingstad’s collision with a tanker in November. Stormy weather over the New Year’s holiday weakened one of the cables meant to secure the mostly-sunken frigate, and now it’s sunk deeper.

This photo, taken in late November, shows how the Navy has tried to secure the mostly sunken frigate KNM Helge Ingstad. Storms have since weakened at least one of the cables securing the wreckage. PHOTO: Sjøforsvaret

Navy officials had hoped to stabilize the badly damaged frigate so that it ultimately can be raised, hoisted onto a barge and taken back to its home port at Haakonsvern in Bergen. The vessel has been tied up to a portion of the rocky coastline near where it collided with the tanker Sola TS in the dark early morning hours of November 8.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Thursday morning that at least one cable had loosened after being worn down in the storm that hit the coastal area, called Øygarden, over New Year. Defense officials fear that’s also a sign that the rocks to which the cables are fastened may be breaking up themselves.

“This is not necessarily dramatic,” claimed a communications adviser to the defense department, Vigdis Hvaal. She told NRK that the Navy has constantly been worried that the frigate will slip further into the sea, and further complicate salvage efforts.

Cranes standing by
News bureau NTB reported Wednesday that the frigate has sunk another 30 centimeters since the Christmas holidays. That’s when salvage operations were targeted to begin, but bad weather put that off, too.

It remains unclear when efforts to raise the damaged frigate can get underway. “We haven’t been able to work with the vessel during the holidays because of the terrible weather,” Torill Herland of the Navy told NTB.

Cranes and the special barge summoned at great expense to do the job were back in place this week, she said. NRK reported that defense department workers were examining how to better secure the frigate to the rocks.

Pollution concerns
There also have been pollution concerns because the frigate was carrying both its own fuel and fuel for helicopters. Officials at the Norwegian National Coastal Administration (Kystverket) told NRK that it hadn’t determined any higher risk of spillage from the vessel. Åsmund Berg Nilsen of Kystverket’s preparedness division told NRK that he and his colleagues had “tight dialogue” with defense officials, “so if there’s been any change in risk levels, we will get a quick report on it.”

Asked whether they had confidence in the Navy’s salvage effort, Nilsen replied: “We have no reason not to think that the defense department is doing what it can to raise the vessel and protect the environment. The weather we’ve had has been tough. It had to be expected that it could affect what’s securing the vessel.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund