2019 Report: Stranded Cruise Ship Narrowly Escapes Disaster

A cruise ship that lost power during a storm off the coast of Norway and nearly ran aground in 2019 avoided becoming “one of the worst disasters at sea in modern times,” according to a new report looking into the blackout.

The Viking Sky was carrying 1,374 passengers when it lost power and became stranded in a notoriously rough stretch of water in the Norwegian Sea. The ship came close to crashing into Norway’s rocky coast, and hundreds of people were evacuated over the course of several hours.

The blackout meant the ship could not move forward or be steered, according to the report from the Norwegian Safety Investigation Authority. The accident was caused by insufficient lubricating oil in all of the operating diesel generators’ lubricating oil sump tanks, the agency said, which combined with rough waters meant the ship could not operate.

The investigation found that one of the vessel’s four diesel generators was “unavailable” when it left port, the agency said, meaning that the cruise ship was not in compliance with safety standards and should have never sailed. The design of the sump tank on the working generators was also “non-compliant with applicable regulations,” the investigation found.

The investigation led by the agency “revealed operational, technical, and managerial safety concerns that each played a role in the blackout in diverse ways,” stipulating over a dozen safety suggestions.

According to the agency, the most significant issue once the ship was at sea was the crew’s lack of preparation for a total blackout without a backup generator. It resulted in engineers being “untrained in handling” the situation.

They stated, “The situation was high-pressure, the management system was multifaceted, and a particular sequence of steps was necessary. Inadequate training probably played a part in the prolonged time required for blackout recovery.”

A significant number of safety suggestions centered on making sure that several shipyards, ship supervisors, and other overseeing organizations review and fortify processes to ensure materials meet safety regulations and that no other ships are being navigated with defective machinery. Other suggestions proposed the innovation of new technology to more accurately monitor lubricating oil to sustain large vessels’ safe operation. It was also recommended that the ship management and cruise line operators review their machine room warning system to identify and adopt potential upgrades.

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