Frigate mistook tanker for oil terminal

Sturle Terminal Sola TSThe Sturle Terminal and the tanker Sola TS. Photo: Øyvind Hagen / Statoil / MarineTraffic

KNM «Helge Ingstad» mistook tanker for oil terminal

The crew of the Frigate KNM «Helge Ingstad» believed before the collision that the tanker «Sola TS» was “a stationary object” (ie the Sturle Terminal), according to the Norwegian Accident Commission.


The Commission’s preliminary analysis is that no single act or incident led to the wrecking of the Frigate. It is due to several factors and circumstances, according to the preliminary report on the collision.

One of the factors was the misunderstanding that arose on the bridge of KNM «Helge Ingstad» when they observed the lights on the tanker.

– The tanker was at first docked. Because the tanker was preparing for departure, it was difficult to distinguish between the light from the vessel and the terminal. Additionally, there was no movement. This has meant that the crew on the frigate had the impression that the light belonged to a stationary object, informs Professional Adviser in the Accident Commission, Ingvild Ytrehus.


– After the change of the watch on the bridge of KNM «Helge Ingstad» – about six minutes before the collision – this was their perception of the situation, Ytrehus explains.

The deck lights on the tanker were left on, even during the collision, according to the Norwegian Accident Commission.

– The tanker’s use of deck lights meant that the crew of KNM «Helge Ingstad» did not see the navigation lanterns on «Sola TS», Ytrehus continues.

Thought they communicated with a 3rd party

When the frigate was called up over the communications channel, they reported that they could not steer to starboard, based on the assumption that the aforementioned lights were stationary.

“They further believed that they communicated with one of the three north-bound vessels that they observed on the radar. It was only after this that the crew of KNM «Helge Ingstad» realised that they were on a collision course, and it was no longer possible to avoid the collision.”

~ Preliminary accident report.

Just before the accident, the tanker reversed the engines, whilst the Frigate at the last minute attempted an evasive manoeuvre.


The Accident Commission emphasises that the report they have submitted is preliminary and that the perception of the course of events may change as more details fall into place. The investigations will continue non-stop in the time to come.

– The accident in Øygarden is incomprehensible too many and raises many questions about how this could possibly happen, says Director in the Norwegian Accident Commission, William J. Bertheussen.

Holes in the report

Major questions remain to be answered:

  • How could they misunderstand the radio dialogue with the tanker?
  • Why did they ignore the information provided by radar & map plotter?


© NTB scanpix / #Norway Today