Safety Experts Condemn 2019 Cruise Following Blackout Issue

A Viking Cruises ship that lost power in a heavy storm narrowly avoided becoming part of one of the worst disasters at sea in modern times.

The Norwegian Safety Investigation Authority published a report on the March 2019 incident where the Viking Sky lost power and almost ran aground in rough seas.

Risky Evacuations were Carried Out

Viking Sky cruise ship
Viking Sky (Photo courtesy of Viking Cruises)

The report said it was “a ship’s length from running aground” in an area of the Norwegian coastline notorious for shipwrecks. The power blackout caused the ship to anchor off the coast in rough seas. The report concluded the ship should never have left the port of Tromso.

The Viking Sky cruise ship was carrying 1,374 passengers. Once the blackout occurred, the captain issued a mayday call, and more than 400 passengers were evacuated from the ship by helicopter. The ship was buffeted by high waves, causing dozens of injuries, and 36 were taken to the hospital.

Report Flags “insufficient lubricating oil”

With about 900 passengers still left onboard, the ship could eventually sail under its power into the port of Molde. The safety report said the ship had “insufficient lubricating oil in all of the operating diesel generators’ lubricating oil sump tanks.”

Viking Sky anchored in Geirangerfjord, Norway.
Viking Sky anchored in Geirangerfjord, Norway. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Bretz)

Furthermore, one of the four diesel generators was inoperable, the investigation found. “The investigation identified operational, technical, and organizational safety issues that in different ways contributed to the blackout.” This followed similar observations made by an earlier report by the Norwegian Accident Investigation Board in late 2019.

The Safety Investigation Authority said the ship’s crew had never been trained to handle a full power outage.

“The control system was complex, and a specific sequence of actions was needed. Insufficient training likely contributed to why the blackout recovery was time consuming.”

The report made more than a dozen safety recommendations. Shortly after the incident, the Norwegian Maritime Authority published a safety bulletin requiring all shipping companies to ensure an adequate supply of lubricating oil to engines.

It said this should be topped up ahead of a sailing when poor weather conditions are forecast.

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