The duty commander of a Norwegian Navy frigate which sank after colliding with an oil tanker has been found guilty of negligence by a court in Norway. The officer had been on duty for just eight minutes on November 8, 2018, when the 442-foot KNM Helge Ingstad collided with the Maltese-flagged oil tanker Sola TS.
The smash tore a huge hole in the frigate’s side in a harbour in Sture, north of Bergen.
In total, 137 of the frigate’s crew were evacuated before the vessel sank. Eight people were slightly injured.
The duty commander is the only person to have been prosecuted over the incident.
Prosecutors had claimed negligent navigation was the main reason behind the collision.
The unidentified officer, who denied the charge, was given a 60-day conditional sentence by the Hordaland district court.
Christian Lundin, a lawyer acting for the 33-year-old officer, told Norwegian news agency NTB: “He is disappointed with the outcome.”
The officer had denied criminal guilt, but had admitted he did not do everything right.
He argued it was unfair to be held solely responsible for the shipwreck.
The officer claimed mistakes were also were made on the tanker and at the maritime traffic centre, which was responsible for traffic in the region.
Prosecutors had called for a 120-day suspended sentence, according to an AFP report quoted by Barron’s Magazine.
The same publication reports that Norway’s Accident Investigation Board concluded the collision was largely due to human error.
The loss of the vessel deprived the Norwegian Navy of one of five frigates it had at a time of heightened tensions with Russia.
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KNM Helge Ingstad has since been raised and scrapped as it was deemed too costly to repair it. The tanker was only slightly damaged in the collision.
Tanker owner Twitt Navigation Ltd agreed in February last year to pay £17.6million (235 million kroner) to the Norwegian state in a settlement relating to the collision.
Reuters reports that Norway’s armed forces estimated in a 2019 report that it would cost £1billion (13 billion kroner) to replace the KNM Helge Ingstad.
The news agency said the early-morning crash near a major North Sea oil export terminal triggered shutdowns of parts of Norway’s petroleum production.
Recordings of communication between the frigate and tanker showed the slow-moving Sola asking the faster Helge Ingstad a number of times to change course or face collision.
However, the request was declined by the navy ship over fears it would bring it too close to shore.
A commission investigating the collision later said the brightly lit Sola TS may have been difficult to distinguish from the nearby terminal from where it had set off, confusing the Ingstad crew, according to Reuters.
Video from the tanker showed sparks flying as the vessels collided, tearing a gash in the side of the warship which was later recycled as scrap metal.
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