Norwegian frigate is rammed by tanker in harbor, could sink

JAN M. OLSEN
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The Norwegian frigate KNM Helge Ingstad takes on water after a collision with the tanker Sola TS, in Oygarden, Norway, Thursday Nov. 8, 2018. Norway's military says the 127-man crew on a Navy frigate has been evacuated after the ship was rammed by a Malta-flagged tanker while docked in a Norwegian harbor. Seven people were slightly injured. (Marit Hommedal/NTB Scanpix via AP)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — An oil tanker rammed a Norwegian navy frigate Thursday in a harbor on the country's western coast, tearing 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 4 a.m. collision in Sture, north of Bergen, 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 frigate was lying in the water almost on its side with its stern under the water.

The 134-meter (442-foot) 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.