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Cruise ship stranded in 2019 could have been "one of the worst disasters at sea," officials say

Millennials, Gen Zers take to the seas
Millennials and Gen Zers take to the seas with more cruise vacations 05:16

A cruise ship that lost power during a storm off the coast of Norway and nearly ran aground in 2019 avoided becoming "one of the worst disasters at sea in modern times," according to a new report looking into the blackout

The Viking Sky was carrying 1,374 passengers when it lost power and became stranded in a notoriously rough stretch of water in the Norwegian Sea. The ship came close to crashing into Norway's rocky coast, and hundreds of people were evacuated over the course of several hours. 

The blackout meant the ship could not move forward or be steered, according to the report from the Norwegian Safety Investigation Authority. The accident was caused by insufficient lubricating oil in all of the operating diesel generators' lubricating oil sump tanks, the agency said, which combined with rough waters meant the ship could not operate. 

Hundreds evacuated from cruise ship in Norway 01:45

The investigation found that one of the vessel's four diesel generators was "unavailable" when it left port, the agency said, meaning that the cruise ship was not in compliance with safety standards and should have never sailed. The design of the sump tank on the working generators was also "non-compliant with applicable regulations," the investigation found. 

The agency's investigation "identified operational, technical, and organisational safety issues that in different ways contributed to the blackout" and called for more than a dozen safety recommendations. 

The cruise ship Viking Sky is pictured on March 23, 2019 near the west coast of Norway at Hustadvika near Romsdal.  ROAR LANGE/AFP/Getty Images

Once at sea, the agency said one of the biggest problems was that the ship's crew had never practiced the protocol for how to recover from a full blackout without a standby generator. This meant that engineers "were not practised in managing" the situation.

"The situation was stressful, the control system was complex, and a specific sequence of actions was needed. Insufficient training likely contributed to why the blackout recovery was time consuming," the agency said. 

Several of the safety recommendations focused on ensuring that various shipyards, ship managers and other organizations that oversaw the Viking Sky review and strengthen processes to ensure that materials are compliant with safety regulations, and to ensure that no other vessels are sailing with faulty machinery. Other safety recommendations suggested that new technology be developed to better measure lubricating oil "to ensure safe operation" of large vessels, and that the ship management company and cruise line operator review their engine room alarm system to identify and implement potential improvements. 

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