We still don't know many details surrounding what appears to be a particularly desperate incident that occurred near Bergen, Norway overnight, but in this case, a picture is worth a thousand words. The Aegis combat system equipped Norwegian frigate Helge Ingstad had a collision with the oil tanker Sola and suffered significant damage. According to reports and the photo in the embedded tweet below, the damage was so bad that the captain ordered the ship's crew to run the vessel aground near the entry to a fjord to keep it from sinking.
The photo shows the vessel grounded and listing badly with its stern sitting very low in the water and a giant gash running down the starboard side of its hull. Helge Ingstad had been participating in the massive Trident Juncture wargames taking place primarily off the coast of Norway. Some accounts state it the frigate was returning to port when the incident occurred.
At this time we have no information as to how many sailors were injured or worse as a result of the accident and we still don't know the status of the oil tanker aside from the fact that its transponder shows it sitting idle across from where the grounding occurred. The Malta flagged tanker is a monster at roughly 820 feet in length.
The 440 foot long Helge Ingstad displaces 5,290 tons and is one of five in the Fridtjof Nansen class that serve with the Royal Norwegian Navy. They are considered the most advanced combat vessels in the service's inventory and are equipped with an eight-cell Mk41 vertical launch system (VLS) that can hold up to 32 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSMs), eight Naval Strike Missiles in their own launchers, four torpedo tubes armed with Stingray torpedoes, a 76mm deck gun, as well as other smaller caliber weapons. An NH-90 helicopter is also commonly embarked. These ships were designed with expansion in mind and have space for multiple types of additional armaments, like another eight cell Mk41 VLS.
Regardless of the ship's combat capabilities, something went horrifically wrong here, but sadly these types of collisions have become all too familiar as of late. Still, the tough decision to ground the vessel—literally something a commanding officer avoids at all costs—may have saved the ship and many of the lives aboard it.
We will update this post periodically as new information comes available.
Update: 2:20am PST—
Seven of the frigate's 127 person crew are reported injured at this time and everyone has been evacuated over fears of the ship sinking and/or rolling over. The tanker was not seriously damaged and its crew of 23 remains aboard as the investigation gets underway. The accident happened at 4am local time.
*Keep in mind, like all details surrounding this incident, these casualty numbers are preliminary and are likely to change over time.
Update: 3am PST—
There is some sort of fuel leak around the ship, with Johan Marius Ly of the Norwegian Coast Guard stating:
"We have been told that there is a leak from the frigate. It should be a helicopter fuel, but the extent of leakage is unknown.”
A large local oil terminal that filled the Sola with crude before the incident took place has also shut down, likely as a precautionary measure and to deal with the investigation surrounding the tanker's actions just prior to the collision.
Check out the picture below. The ship may end up being a parts donor, but the move to ground her seems to have been successful at keeping her from heading down to Davy Jones' locker and the fact that everyone lived, at least according to the info we have now, is great news that supports the skipper's grounding decision. The weather also seems to have been really calm, which was probably key as well in getting the ship grounded and everyone safely off in one piece.
This could have been a far more tragic event.
Update: 11:52am PST—
We have a whole new post published with updates on the incident and the exact location of the ship that you can access here.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com