Low oil pressure caused Viking Sky engine failure says Norwegian authority

The cruise ship Viking Sky drifts towards land after an engine failure along Norway’s western coast on March 23, 2019. Rescue helicopters spent 19 hours rescuing passengers from the troubled vessel. (Odd Roar Lange/NTB Scanpix/REUTERS)
Norway’s Maritime Authority (NMA) says low oil pressure caused the engine failure that stranded the Viking Sky in stormy waters this weekend off the coast of Norway.

“The level of lubricating oil in the tanks was within set limits, however relatively low, when the vessel started to cross Hustadvika,” the NMA said in a news release this week.

Hustadvika is the part of the Norwegian coastline where the incident took place. 

“The tanks were provided with level alarms, however these had not been triggered at this time. The heavy seas in Hustadvika probably caused movements in the tanks so large that the supply to the lubricating oil pumps stopped. This triggered an alarm indicating a low level of lubrication oil, which in turn shortly thereafter caused an automatic shutdown of the engines.”

Viking Oceans Cruises, the division of Switzerland-based Viking Cruises that operates the Viking Sky, said they are working to make sure the problem does not reoccur on their other ships. 

“We welcome the prompt and efficient investigation carried out by the NMA and we fully understand and acknowledge their findings,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We have inspected the levels on all our sister ships and are now revising our procedures to ensure that this issue could not be repeated. We will continue to work with our partners and the regulatory bodies in supporting them with the ongoing investigations.”

Weekend mayday

The cruise ship sent out a mayday on Saturday, with 1,373 passengers and crew on board after its engines shut down, the crew was forced to drop the ship’s anchors to keep the boat from being tossed towards rocks by the storm.

Passenger injuries ranged from cuts to trauma to broken bones. Several people were hospitalized.

A picture from Viking Sky passenger Michal Stewart on board the cruise ship on Saturday, March 23, 2019 as passengers wait for rescue. Rescue crews winched people to safety one-by-one as waves tossed the ship from side to side and high winds battered the operation. (Michal Stewart/AP/The Canadian Press)

Helicopter rescue crews spent some 19 hours, making some 30 trips back and forth to evacuate hundreds of passengers, before the ship was able to make its way to shore on Sunday with remaining passengers and crew.

The Viking Sky had been travelling from the Arctic Norwegian city of Tromso, to the city of Stavanger in the country’s South at the time of the incident.

On Tuesday, the NMA gave the ship a permit for a single voyage to the city of Kristiansund for repairwork to be done.

General safety notice issued

The NMA has issued a general safety notice to ship crews and companies to make sure they have a continuous supply of lubricating oil to engines and other critical systems when in poor weather conditions and recommend that it be included in ships’ risk assessments.

The NMA says “dialogues” between them, the cruise company, the Accident Investigation Board Norway and Lloyd’s Register, the ship classification and certification society,  continues in order to “…reveal underlying causes and identify appropriate measures.”

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: ‘No panic’ as cruise ship ran aground in northern Canada, says passenger, CBC News

Finland: Baltic Sea helps Helsinki post record cruise season, Yle News

Iceland: Environmental groups call on Arctic cruise industry to reduce pollution in Iceland , Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Several ships being launched to feed Arctic cruise boom, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Luxury cruises lured by Arctic Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Northwest Passage cruise marks turning point in Arctic tourism, Alaska Public Media

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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