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The Icelandic Transportation Accident Investigation found that the ship could have grounded after encountering a sudden increase in wind speed as it departed the port, but the actions of the crew of the tug Magni prevented a disaster. 

On the night of May 26, 2023, the Bahamas-flagged cruise ship was preparing to depart Reykjavík. The master, 37, was Panamanian and had sailed with Norwegian Cruise Lines for 14 years. He had worked on Norwegian Prima during its construction and was promoted to master for its commissioning in 2022. Notably, it was his first call at Reykjavík.

The weather forecast from the Icelandic Meteorological Office predicted wind speeds in the range of 27-31 knots in the bay area. Though according to the master’s assessment the wind speed was within the required thresholds for sailing, the pilot implied that he had reservations about departing under the prevailing conditions - but did not feel that he had the power to impose a delay on the ship.

In interviews with investigators after the fact, the master said that the forecasted wind speed was below the threshold of what he thought the vessel “could take”, considering its 14,000 square meters of windage area, and that he would not have attempted to sail if winds were forecasted higher than 33-35 knots.

At 2150, Norwegian Prima started a turning maneuver to depart her berth and head out of the harbor with the assistance of tug Magni. When the turn was almost complete, the wind speed increased significantly. With wind in excess of 50 knots on the port beam, the vessel could not regain its planned track. It drifted outside the navigable channel, overran a buoy and came within 10 meters of rocks with a charted depth of 0.4 meters. However, a grounding was averted with the assistance of the tugboat.

“There were no injuries or pollution. Norwegian Prima suffered no damage as a result of overrunning the buoy but the tug suffered minor damage due to prolonged pushing whilst it helped the vessel avoid grounding,” states the investigation report.

The cruise ship had arrived at Reykjavík pilot station after an eight-day passage. The report indicates that during the voyage to Reykjavík, the vessel had maintained higher than normal levels of treated wastewater in its holding tanks to increase stability and counter wind heeling during rough weather. The tanks had enough room left for a planned two-day stay at Reykjavík; investigators suggested that the limited tank space may have influenced the decision to sail. 


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