Spitsbergen – “Northguider” is dismantled on site | Polarjournal
Members of the Norwegian Coast Guard inspect the “Northguider” in July 2019. (Image: Kystverket)

The “Northguider” ran aground and sank on December 28, 2018 while trawling in Hinlopen Strait, in the Nordaustlandet Nature Reserve. The 14-strong crew was rescued in a dramatic operation. A Dutch salvage company was to repair and tow the ship in the summer of 2019. The attempt failed because the damage had been greater than expected.

The evacuation of the 14-strong crew in absolute darkness and cold demanded the highest concentration from the rescue team. (Image: Kystverket)

The Norwegian Coast Guard removed 300 tons of fuel shortly after the accident. Since the ship was in a sideway position of 15 degrees at that time, the damage could not be assessed precisely. It was decided to wait until the summer of 2019 to recover the ship.

The salvage attempt had to be abandoned when a gap of 12 meters in length and 5 meters wide became visible in the hull, which had been caused by the ground contact of the ship. The salvage crew had hoped to repair the hull to have the ship floating again. The plan was to tow the “Northguider” to Bergen. Eventually, the effort was aborted in mid-October and postponed again by one year.

The “Northguider” with a Norwegian Coast Guard vessel in the background, which was taken up before the start of the first salvage attempt. (Image: Kystverket)

New trial in summer 2020

“The current plan is to cut the “Northguider” into pieces, lift them onto a barge and transport them to the mainland. We are now waiting for detailed plans of the salvage company,” said Senior Advisor Rune Bergstram of the Norwegian Coastal Administration at the end of April 2020.

However, this method requires relatively calm weather during the demolition of the ship. In order not to have to postpone the salvage operation again this year, Titan Salvage, the company responsible for the demolition, will cut the “Northguider” into 5-ton pieces, which are loaded onto a barge and transported away.

The salvage company Smit Salvage is known to be able to carry out large-scale salvage work. Among other things, Smit Salvage became known for the salvage of the “Kursk”, a Russian nuclear submarine that sank in the Barents Sea in 2000, and the salvage of the cruise ship “Costa Concordia” after it ran aground on the Italian coast in 2012.

The end of the “Northguider” is approaching. The ship is dismantled and removed. Since the first attempt to recover the ship, it has been tilted further to the side. (Image: Kystverket)

Captain and owner of the “Northguider” sentenced to fines

The captain of the ship was fined 35,000 kronor (about 3,300 euros) for negligence and the owner was fined 300,000 kronor (28,100 euros) for security breaches related to ‘running aground’.

According to the judgment, the ship lacked adequate safety systems to sail in icy waters and in total darkness.

“Northguider” fished in a climatically and weather-demanding area, where there was ice, low temperatures, darkness and rapid changes in wind and weather conditions. There is also a lack of map base, long distances to the rescue and unstable radio coverage in the area,” said Sølvi Elvedahl, a spokesman for Sysselmann, referring to the verdict. The court also found that the captain of the “Northguider” was responsible for the ship running aground, endangering the life of the crew and possibly polluting the waters of the strait.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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