Pilot: Cruise ship woes off Norway started with engine snags

Viking Sky cruise ship stranded March 23, 2019 off the coast of Norway.
Posted at 3:22 PM, Mar 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-26 15:22:15-04

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The Norwegian pilot on the cruise ship carrying more than 1,300 people that was caught in a hefty storm off the coast of Norway said Tuesday the situation worsened when engine problems appeared.

Inge Lockert told the Vesteraalen newspaper that "everything went as it should until we got engine problems."

"It was a very big team effort," he told the daily. "When we got the engine running again, we realized we were going to save ourselves."

Lockert did not reply to requests for comment by The Associated Press.

The ship, Viking Sky, made a mayday call Saturday afternoon after the engine failures. Five helicopters winched off 479 passengers, and the airlift evacuation went well into Sunday.

The operation was halted later Sunday when the ship's engines restarted and the vessel limped into a nearby port with the nearly 900 passengers and crew remaining onboard.

A total of 36 people was admitted in local hospitals and as of Tuesday, one person was in critical but stable condition in an intensive care ward. Seven others were expected to be discharged later Tuesday, hospital officials said.

Lockert was one of two pilots from the Norwegian Coastal Administration who boarded the ship on Saturday to help the crew take the ship into port, the Vesteraalen daily said. Only Lockert has spoken publicly.

Bengt-Owe Gustafsson, the Viking Sky's Finnish captain, told Finnish tabloid Iltalehti Tuesday that the vessel began to drift in the storm when it suddenly experienced engine problems.

"I'm happy that no-one got seriously injured. Things could've been much worse," he told the paper. The report said Gustafsson had twenty years' experience in the cruise shipping industry, including with the Disney Cruise Line.

He added that the storm badly damaged the ship's interiors "so there's lots of work for us." Norwegian authorities were currently aboard the vessel probing the weekend's events, he said.

On Monday, Norwegian officials said they have opened an investigation into the ordeal.

The ship was on a 12-day cruise along Norway's coast before its scheduled arrival Tuesday in Britain. The passengers were mostly an English-speaking mix of American, British, Canadian, New Zealand and Australian citizens.