A Norwegian naval officer has denied negligence over the sinking of his frigate following a collision with an oil tanker.
The 33-year-old officer claims he was a small part of an overall failure in systems that led to the collision with the 113,700-dwt Sola TS (built 2017) near an offshore oil export terminal north-west of Bergen, according to Norwegian media reports.
The early morning crash in November 2018 between the Helge Ingstad and the loaded aframax left a gash along the side of the frigate that allowed water to pour in.
None of the frigate’s 137 crew members suffered serious injury but the Helge Ingstad was so badly damaged that it sank in coastal waters. The warship was later raised and stabilised but it was ultimately sold for scrap.
The Sola TS suffered only minor damage.
The officer, who has not been publicly identified, could face up to three years in prison if found guilty. He claims he is being made a scapegoat for the crash, according to Norwegian daily Aftenposten.
His lawyer, Christian Lundin, said on the first day of the trial that his client should not be the sole person held responsible for the incident and that everything that could have gone wrong did.
But public prosecutor Benedikte Hogseth said the defendant was the watch commander on the bridge at the time of the incident and the most responsible person, according to Aftenposten.
Recordings have revealed that the slow-moving Sola TS asked the Helge Ingstad to change course but the navy ship did not do so, as it feared it was navigating too close to the shore.
It emerged last February that Twitt Navigation — the owner of the Tsakos Energy Navigation-controlled tanker — would pay a settlement of NOK 235m ($23.7m) to the Norwegian government.
The payment was a tiny fraction of the cost of the frigate, which was worth NOK 4.3bn. In addition, the salvage operation cost NOK 726m and the dismantling process NOK 60m. A report found that a replacement vessel will set the government back up to NOK 13bn.
An earlier accident report identified more navigational failings on the side of the frigate than the tanker or the local vessel traffic service on the island of Fedje.
The trial is scheduled to last until 10 March.