USCG updates ‘Viking Polaris’ accident report

2024-02-13T21:39:19+00:00 February 13th, 2024|Safety|

As previously mentioned, the Norwegian Safety Investigation Authority (NSIA) issued a report on marine casualty involving the cruise ship ‘Viking Polaris’ south-east of Cape Horn on 29th November, 2022.

The day before, there was an incident involving one of the ship’s Zodiacs in Antarctica. One passenger was injured and another ended up in the water. As a result, the ship had to interrupt its cruise to perform a medical evacuation.

On 29th November, 2022 the ship was crossing the Drake Passage from Antarctica to Ushuaia, when she was hit by a breaking wave just southeast of Cape Horn.

The accident caused seven stateroom windows to break causing major damage inside these rooms. One passenger died and eight were injured.

The investigation showed that the ship was struck by a breaking wave that, in combination with the ship’s course and speed, caused the windows to shatter. At the time of the accident, the crew did not have the sufficient premises for predicting the risk associated with a breaking wave reaching so high up on the shipside with such great force.

Furthermore, the investigation proved that the pressure from the breaking wave exceeded what the windows were designed to withstand.

NSIA said that the windows were inadequately dimensioned and that the design pressure requirements in the current regulations for windows in this position yielded too low values to be able to withstand pressure loads from breaking waves within the extent of the validity of the rules.

In the Drake Passage and other areas with similar weather conditions, the probability of breaking waves has to be taken into account when operating in these waters. It is therefore possible that ‘Viking Polaris’ and her sistership ‘Viking Octantis’ will be exposed to breaking waves against the side of the ship if they are operating in beam sea with increasing wind.

NSIA considered that a robust design that takes account of breaking waves will be a necessary barrier to reduce the probability of damages to the ships’ side. The current dimensioning of the windows means that they will not be able to withstand the pressure from all breaking waves, which may arise within the extent of validity of the rules.

In an update, the US was considered a ‘Substantially Interested State’ (SIS) in accordance with the Norwegian Maritime Code. NSIA was  the lead investigating authority.

Personnel from USCG Activities Europe participated and assisted NSIA throughout the investigation.

The USCG has developed  a ‘Final Action Memo’, which included comments to the NSIA report.

It said that the investigation showed that the sea conditions at the time of the accident were within the sea states defined in the wave scatter diagram the ship was designed for.

No faults of significance to the outcome of the incident were identified in the design basis. However, it was revealed that the minimum requirements in the IACS class rules, including DNV, doesn’t provide a dimensioning minimum pressure sufficient to withstand a breaking wave.

NSIA said that the windows were insufficiently dimensioned to withstand the pressure loads from this breaking wave, and that the applicable IACS rules, international requirements and standards gave too low values to withstand the pressure loads from breaking waves within the validity of the rules and regulations.

As a result, NSIA recommended that DNV promote the problem in a question to IACS to ensure that all class rules, independent of class society, are developed to include requirements that account for breaking waves against the shipside. This also has to be reflected in DNV’s own rules.

NSIA also recommended that the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA), which has the overall responsibility for safety at sea for vessels flying the Norwegian flag, ensure that Viking Expedition Ship conducts reinforcements to ensure that breaking waves do not cause damage to windows on the two existing expedition vessels.

In addition, Viking Expedition Ship, in co-operation with Wilhelmsen Ship Management (Norway), was recommended to implement reinforcements to ensure that breaking waves do not damage the windows on the two existing expedition vessels.