In the early hours of the morning of 8th November, one of the Royal Norwegian Navy’s 5 Fridtjof Nansen-class frigates struck an oil tanker near the port of Sture. HNoMS Helge Ingstad (F313) collided with the Maltese oil tanker Sola TS while taking part in NATO’s exercise Trident Juncture.
The Helge Ingstad entered service in late 2009, the fourth in her class. The Nansen-class $400 million frigates are Norway’s primary surface combatants so the accident is a grave setback for the Norwegian Navy. The Helge Ingstad was returning from successfully taking part in the naval element of NATO’s recent exercises when at 0400 she collided with the 250m long Sola TS, which when fully laden displaces more than 100,000 tons. Ironically NATO confirms that the frigate was taking part in navigation training in Norway’s inner fjords.
It is reported that the frigate collided with the tanker at a speed of 17 knots, the collision left the Norwegian ship with a hole in her starboard side and taking on water. The tanker reportedly realised the impending disaster and radioed the frigate several times but the collision was not avoided. In the minutes that followed reports differ over whether the ships crew intentionally ran the frigate aground on a nearby rocky shore or if the current pushed the powerless vessel onto them. Regardless of how the ship reached the shore, it likely saved her from sinking.
Helge Ingstad came to a precarious rest on the rocks listing heavily to starboard with her stern partially submerged. By the 12th November, however, the ship has settled with most of her stern and helicopter hanger submerged. Tugs and salvage experts have managed to nudge the stricken ship into a more stable position in the hopes of salvaging her in the coming weeks.
While the Norwegian Navy has declined to offer comment on the collision , citing an ongoing investigation, NATO issued the following statement:
“Due to the damage to the frigate it was moved to a safe place and the crew was evacuated in a professional manner. There are no reports of damages or leaks from the oil tanker and no report of serious injuries, though eight crewmembers are being treated for minor injuries.The Norwegian Armed Forces are working with the Norwegian Coastal Authority to address the situation. The Norwegian frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad is part of the Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1). The group was sailing in and around the Fjords, following their participation in exercise Trident Juncture 2018 which concluded on November 7th.The rest of SNMG1’s ships are positioned nearby at sea in the event that further assistance is required.”