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Safety board say cruise ship at centre of horror rescue should not have left harbour

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A cruise ship at the center of a dramatic evacuation off north Norway five years ago should never have left port because it was not up to safety standards, officials said on Tuesday, adding that it could have developed into one of the worst disasters at sea in modern times.

In a report, the Norwegian Safety Investigation Authority upbraided Viking Sky, saying it was ”a ship’s length from running aground.”

The ship left the northern city of Tromso carrying almost 1,400 people, despite storm warnings. It was headed for Stavanger in southern Norway when it had engine problems amid a storm on March 23, 2019, and issued a mayday call.

The ship anchored in heavy seas to avoid being dashed on the rocks in an area known for shipwrecks. Passengers saw a large wave crashing through glass doors and knocking people across the floor of an area where they had been instructed to gather.

Nearly 480 passengers were winched off the ship by helicopter despite high winds in a daring rescue operation. The captain then decided to halt the evacuation, and about 900 people were still on board when the ship limped into the Norwegian port of Molde on its own engines.

Dozens of people were injured during the ship’s harrowing ordeal, including 36 who were admitted to hospitals.

Norwegian authorities immediately launched a probe into the accident, which concluded Tuesday that the ship was unprepared to sail in rough seas.

“The accident was caused by insufficient lubricating oil in all of the operating diesel generators’ lubricating oil sump tanks, in combination with pitching and rolling in rough seas,” investigators wrote. “The investigation has identified operational, technical, and organisational safety issues that in different ways contributed to the blackout.”

“As Viking Sky did not comply with the applicable safety standards, it should not have departed Tromso under the prevailing circumstances,” the report said.

There was no immediate reaction from operator Viking Ocean Cruises.

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