The Norwegian warship which rolled onto its side after colliding with a UK-bound oil tanker last week has sunk after the wires holding it in place were torn.
Pictures released of the KNM Helge Instad on Tuesday, part of a NATO fleet in the Atlantic, showed the frigate almost completely submerged in the water after sinking overnight.
The ship had been being held afloat by cables since last weeks incident but officials from the Forsvaret, Norway’s armed forces, confirmed that the cables had snapped leading it to slide further and further underwater.
‘The ship sunk a meter further and, as a result, two wires broke. They were replaced with two stronger ones. We worked until midnight on this. After midnight, we realized it was not safe for our staff to carry on the work further,’ Haavard Mathiesen, the head of the salvage operation for the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency said Tuesday.
‘Around 0600 (0500 GMT), more wires broke and the ship sank further. It is now in deep water and stable,’ he told a news conference.
Crew on board the warship, which is one of the largest in the Norwegian navy, were reportedly warned several times it was on a collision course with a Britain-bound oil tanker before the two vessels smashed into each other.
Despite the warnings, however, they insisted they ‘had control’ before smashing into Sola TS in Sture, north of Bergen, Norway.
The frigate had received alerts from the tanker and from the Coastal Maritime Traffic Center Fedje VTS, sources have told the Norwegian news website Aldrimer. But ship management are said to have responded: ‘We are in control’ in the run-up to the crash.
Some 10,000 litres of helicopter fuel from the frigate has leaked into the sea after the collision tore a large hole in its side, the military said. The frigate’s 137 crew members were evacuated amid fears that it may sink.
Eight people on the KNM Helge Instad were injured in the 4am collision said Rear Adm. Nils Andreas Stensoenes, the head of Norway’s navy. Two of them were taken to a nearby hospital.
The ship, which had recently taken part in the vast Trident Juncture NATO military drill in Norway, is ‘strongly listing,’ Stensoenes told a news conference Thursday afternoon.
The 442ft long frigate, built in Spain in 2009, is part of a NATO fleet in the Atlantic. The alliance has been informed of the accident, he said.
The Maltese-flagged oil tanker, Sola TS, was not damaged and its 23-man crew remained on board. The shipping site Sysla reported the tanker had been loaded with crude oil and was on its way to Britain.
Stensoenes said the cause of the accident was not clear and the Navy would wait for the findings of Norway’s Accident Investigation Board. Earlier reports had said a towboat was also involved in the collision, but Stensoenes denied that report.
He said the frigate had been pushed by towboats into shallow water where it could not sink fully.
‘We are in a security phase for the time being,’ he said. He declined to comment on what would happen to the weapons on board the ship.
Some 10,000 liters of helicopter fuel from the frigate has leaked into the sea, said Johan Marius Ly of the Norwegian Coast Guard. The fuel was expected to evaporate quickly.
Norway’s largest oil and gas company, Equinor, formerly known as Statoil, said its non-emergency activities at the Sture terminal where the collision occurred were shut down as a precaution for many hours but were gradually starting up again late Thursday afternoon.
The Accident Investigation Board said because the tanker is Maltese-registered, the Marine Safety Investigation Unit (MSIU) of Malta will participate in the investigation.