Viking Sky Near Grounding the Result of Low Lubricating Oil

Viking Sky in distress
A cruise ship Viking Sky drifts towards land after an engine failure, Hustadvika, Norway March 23, 2019. Frank Einar Vatne/NTB Scanpix/via REUTERS

The Accident Investigation Board of Norway has published an interim report on its investigation into the Viking Sky’s loss power and near-grounding in heavy weather off the coast of Norway last March.

The Viking Ocean Cruises cruise ship had 915 passengers and 458 crew on board when it experienced a blackout and loss of propulsion in forecasted gale to storm force conditions off the notoriously dangerous Hustadvika coast in western Norway on March 23, 2019. 

The master immediately sent out a mayday as the ship drifted towards shore.

The interim report includes a simplified narrative and initial findings from the incident, as well as actions taken by Wilhelmsen Ship Management, which provided technical management of the vessel.

According to the interim report, the Viking Sky’s diesel generators shut down as the result low lubricating oil pressure, combined with pitching and rolling.

“On the morning of 23 March, between 0500 and 0904, 18 lubricating oil low level and low volume alarms were registered by the operational DGs. Each alarm, having been accepted, cleared within a few seconds,” the interim report states. 

“No more alarms were registered until 13:37:04 when DG4 registered an alarm indicating that the DG was shedding load as a result of low lubricating oil pressure. A few seconds later it registered a low lubricating oil pressure alarm. At 13:39:52, DG1 registered a low low lubricating oil sump level alarm. A little over five minutes later, at 13:45:26, DG4 shut down followed by DG2 eight seconds later. DG2 was restarted after approximately 11 minutes, but shut down again along with DG1 at 13:58:31, causing a complete black- out and loss of propulsion,” the report says. 

The report also highlights the crew’s efforts to prevent the ship from running aground.

“Having assessed the situation, the master broadcast a mayday at 1400. He then instructed the crew to drop both anchors. However, the anchors did not hold, and the ship continued to drift astern towards the shore at a speed of 6–7 knots. The General Alarm was activated at 1413 and the passengers and crew began to muster,” the interim report states.

The AIBN estimates the Viking Sky came within a ship’s length of grounding, having passed over or in immediate proximity to 10 meters shoals before propulsion was restored.

Sequence of Events

Viking Sky Sequence of Events
Source: MAIB

Upon receipt of the mayday call, the Southern Norway Joint Rescue Coordination Centre launched a major rescue operation involving several helicopters, tugboats, and other assets.

Before the vessel was declared out of danger, helicopters had airlifted a total of 479 passengers to safety.

The Accident Investigation Board Norway is acting as the lead agency in the investigation with participation from the United States and the United Kingdom as “substantially interested states”.

The AIBN interim report also supports findings from a Norwegian Maritime Administration report issued shortly after the incident which stated the incident was directly caused by low oil pressure.

The AIBN’s investigation will continue with analysis of the sequence of events and analysis of factual information.

The interim report can be downloaded from the AIBN website here