Hurtigruten ran into trouble again

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UPDATED: Norway’s coastal shipping line Hurtigruten, tarnished by its failure to reveal Corona infection on board some of its ships last year, sailed into more trouble during the night but avoided running aground. Its MS Kong Harald lost engine power in the middle of a notoriously stormy area with rough seas, setting off a massive emergency response.

The Hurtigruten vessel Kong Harald lost power in a rough stretch of sea off the Norwegian coast during the night. PHOTO: Hurtigruten

The breakdown occurred in the area known as Hustadvika, where another cruiseship, Viking Sky, also avoided a dramatic near-grounding in 2019. Late Tuesday night, Hurtigruten’s Kong Harald experienced the same with 236 passengers and 70 crew members on board. Crew members were eventually able to restart an engine as lots of rescue craft were standing by.

No injuries were reported, but inspectors later determined that the engine trouble was tied to a “worn-out part” in the vessel’s fuel system that should have been replaced. NRK reported the captain had sailed from Kristiansund into Hustadvika knowing that the vessel’s engine on its starboard side was out of service. Then the other engine failed, too.

The vessel eventually made it to the closest port at Molde, where inspectors from the state maritime directorate went on board. They’re now questioning why the defective part hadn’t been replaced, and what risk evaluations were made when the vessel sailed with one of two main engines out of service. Captain Asbjørn Dalan claimed it wasn’t unusual to sail with one engine. He also told NRK that the situation wasn’t nearly as dramatic for the Kong Harald as it was for Viking Sky in March of 2019.

“I would have done the same thing today,” Dalan told NRK. “We’re not stopped by a moderate gale. Viking Sky had other weather conditions, it was a storm.”

The maritime directorate otherwise praised the preparedness and rescue operation mounted during the night, along with the captain and crew on board. Passengers also told state broadcaster NRK that they were  kept well-oriented during the drama by crew members who remained calm and regularly sent out information over the vessel’s loudspeaker system. New parts were installed in both engines on Wednesday and the vessel was allowed to sail later Wednesday afternoon, from Molde to Ålesund.

Hurtigruten, still emerging from scandal last year, had claimed it would be back in full operation from July when Corona regulations eased. It ended up disappointing more would-be passengers by cancelling several of its classic cruises along the Norwegian coast. Passengers from outside the EU area also faced strict quarantine requirements or denied entry to Norway, with some left struggling to obtain refunds. Norwegian passengers holding tickets on cancelled cruises were offered alternate dates and vouchers to cover some expenses on board.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund