The Viking Sky cruise ship came within a ship's length of
running aground on shoals off the coast of Norway during a violent storm last
March, according to an interim report on the incident from an investigative
The 750-foot Viking Cruises ship was trying to sail from
Tromso to Stavanger when all three of its operating engines shut down and a
blackout ensued, leaving the ship adrift.
The report from Norway's Accident Investigation Board found
that lubricating oil levels in the engines were far below the levels
recommended by the engine manufacturer.
It said the levels were maintained at 28% to 40% capacity,
while the recommended level was 68% to 70%.
"The diesel generators shut down as a result of the loss of
lubricating oil suction due to low sump tank levels, combined with pitching and
rolling," investigators concluded.
The shutdown occurred in an offshore area called Hustadvika,
which pilot manuals describe as "extraordinarily dangerous."
With no propulsion, Viking Sky drifted toward the rocky
shore. The captain issued a mayday call, which led to a helicopter rescue
operation that evacuated 479 passengers from the 930-passenger ship.
The captain concluded the seas were too dangerous to order
passengers into lifeboats. He lowered both anchors to stop the drift, but the
anchors failed to hold. The report said the ship "passed over or in immediate
proximity to 10-meter (33-foot) shoals before propulsion could be reestablished."
The ship has a draft of 6.65 meters (nearly 22 feet).
After 24 minutes of blackout, engineers added oil to the
engines and eventually restarted them but had to manage the electrical load
manually, a difficult challenge, the report said. The ship was maneuvered
toward open waters, with both anchors still lowered.
The interim report recommends that ship owners and operators
ensure that engine lubricating oil tank levels are maintained in accordance
with the engine manufacturer’s instructions and "topped up in the event of poor
weather being forecast."