UPDATED: Police ordered the evacuation Wednesday night of more than 300 people who were on board one of the Hurtigruten ships that cruise along the Norwegian coast. The evacuation came after a threat was lodged against the vessel while it was docked in the northwest coastal city of Ålesund.
The threat came in the form of a telephone call earlier in the evening that set off full alarms. Police declined to reveal the nature of the threat, but said it was “meant to create fear.” Around 260 passengers and 70 crew members were thus evacuated from the ship, the MS NordNorge, and taken to a nearby hotel.
The vessel was searched and police later determined that the threat was false. “We have no reason now to be worried about the vessel or the welfare of those on board,” Borge Amdam, operations leader for the Møre og Romsdal Police District, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “We have had an intense investigation that lets us say that this was not a real threat.”
Siri Løndal, also of the local police, said the identity of the person lodging the threat has been confirmed. She wouldn’t say whether the suspect was a local resident. Asked whether police intended to file charges, she responded: “Absolutely!”
Police later confirmed they had charged a man living in Trøndelag who has a history of making similar threats but isn’t viewed as posing a real threat. “We are well-acquainted with him,” prosecutor Anne Haave told NRK. An arrest was pending. It was unclear whether Hurtigruten would pursue the matter.
After being taken to a local hotel and served a meal, all the passengers and crew were allowed to return to the ship, where the captain “stood at the gangway and welcomed everyone back on board,” said Hurtigruten spokesman Martin Henriksen, a former Member of Parliament and leader of the Labour Party’s youth group who lost many friends in the terrorist attack at the group’s summer camp on the island of Utøya 11 years ago.
“So far we haven’t had any negative feedback” from the passengers, Henriksen said. He said the evacuation order was made as a matter of “better being safe than sorry” after the threat had been called in to the ship itself.
“This was of course unfortunate,” Henriksen told NRK, “but the police handled it quickly and effectively.” The northbound vessel planned to depart as soon as possible, but because of the delay, would need to drop calls at Molde and Kristiansund and sail directly to Trondheim to get back on schedule.
Police reported no complaints from passengers, and “there’s no reason for any anxiety,” Amdam told NRK.