Investigations begin into Viking Sky machinery failures

Paul Gunton
Paul Gunton
ShipInsight

25 March 2019


Investigators are on board the Viking Ocean Cruise ship, Viking Sky, today in Molde to start work on finding out why its engines failed in bad weather over the weekend. The ship had been on a voyage from to Stavanger from Tromsø when it ran into difficulties in heavy weather on Saturday afternoon and all four engines stopped. Many passengers were evacuated by helicopter before three engines were restarted and the ship was escorted into nearby Molde harbour.

The Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) told ShipInsight today (25 March) that it has surveyors on board, together with representatives from the ship’s classification society, Lloyd’s Register. Norway’s Accident Investigation Board and the police have also confirmed that they will carry out investigations into the incident, NMA’s senior communications adviser Kari Stautland said. She expects that preliminary findings will be available tomorrow.

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MAN Energy Solutions has also sent a service team to the ship to start its own investigation into the engine failures. A spokesman for the engine builder, which had supplied the ship’s MAN 32/44CR engines, told ShipInsight that it was in close contact with Viking’s technical department and “will start analysis of the incident immediately”.

He declined to go into more detail or “to indulge in any guesswork on what may have caused the incident” before any assessment has been made at the scene. After that, “we will do a thorough analysis and take the next steps together with our customer, Viking Cruises.”

The company’s immediate response was relief: “we are very happy and relieved that the Viking Sky has reached the harbor safely and all passengers and crew members are safe,” he said.

Lloyd’s Register, also declined to comment, referring ShipInsight to Viking Ocean Cruises. LR advertises a Ship Emergency Response Service that “provides rapid, global 24/7 access to expert teams of naval architects, ex-mariners and specialists,” its website notes, but its spokeswoman declined to say whether that had been called into action over the weekend.

Viking Ocean Cruises’ website has carried a series of statements on its home page since the incident, updating its information from time to time. It initially reported that its “first priority was for the safety and wellbeing of our passengers and our crew, and in close cooperation with the Norwegian Coast Guard, the captain decided to evacuate all guests from the vessel by helicopter.”

At the time of writing, on Monday morning UK time, it is reporting that the ship docked at 1630 Norwegian time on Sunday (24 March) and that the passengers will be returning home. The ship’s next sailing, which had been scheduled to board passengers in the UK on 27 March, has been cancelled but “we do not anticipate any additional cancellations at this time,” its statement says. That suggests the ship will be back in service for a cruise leaving Copenhagen on 6 April, bound for Amsterdam, arriving on 15 April.

ShipInsight has contacted Viking Ocean Cruises for further information about the incident and will update this item in due course. It has not issued a general press statement via its website about the situation.

In the meantime, no official comments have been made about the causes of the engine failures. The ship is just over two years old, having been delivered by Italy’s Fincantieri in January 2017, so, in ShipInsight’s view, it is unlikely that sediments will have built up in the bunker tanks and been disturbed by the bad weather.

But we believe that a fuel problem is more likely than, for example, an engine control failure. Water contamination might have caused the fuel to emulsify and froth, or if a poorly blended fuel had been bunkered, the agitation might have caused it to separate. These problems could have been exacerbated if the ship’s bunkering policy – not known at this time – is to take on fuel at its turnround ports, in which case tank levels might have been low in the day tank causing it to froth or even to allow an air lock into the fuel lines.

There can be little doubt that the experience was quite frightening for many of the passengers. Videos available online show furniture and other items sliding across the decks as the ship rolled to large angles. The operator’s online statement thanks the Norwegian Redningssentral (rescue service) and the Norwegian emergency services “for their support and skill displayed in managing the situation in very challenging weather conditions.” It also thanked local residents “who throughout the whole process have been extremely supportive and hospitable.”

The heading photograph is reproduced with permission from CHC Helicopters