Hurtigruten's MS Roald Amundsen sailed two voyages from Tromsø and around Svalbard in July 2020. After arriving in Tromsø on Friday 31 July on the second voyage, coronavirus infection was detected among crew and passengers.
- The police started an investigation the same weekend to see if Hurtigruten as a company, or people within the company or onboard the ship, should have implemented measures to reduce any risk of further infection of the coronavirus when calling port in Tromsø. The police have investigated the case to identify any criminal liability, says police prosecutor Lisa-Mari Ellingsen at Troms Police District, who has led the investigation.
Good Overview of the Course of Events
More than 30 interrogations of almost 30 employees, passengers and others have been carried out, and an extensive material of seized e-mails from Hurtigruten has been reviewed.
Documentation from amongst others the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, University Hospital of North Norway, Norwegian Coastal Administration, Municipalities of Hadsel and Tromsø, and Hurtigruten's external investigation report are included in the investigation.
- The investigation has given us a good overview of the course of events, and we have received thorough assessments from maritime expertise at the Norwegian Maritime Authority and medical expertise at the Norwegian Board of Health Supervision, says acting public prosecutor Jørn Bremnes at the Troms and Finnmark Regional Public Prosecution Office, who has decided the case.
From Wednesday 29 July, two days before calling port of Tromsø, the company had several independent pieces of information suggesting covid-19 infection on board the MS Roald Amundsen. Employees in the shipping company were notified by the infection control doctor in Hadsel municipality that the ship was a probable site of infection for a passenger from the first voyage. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health recommended the same day notification of passengers, and it was the same day recommendation or decision by health personnel on board to test two crew for covid-19, in addition there were two more who had symptoms compatible with covid-19.
Despite this, the shipping company failed to implement infection control measures, notify passengers, crew or public authorities about this.
- If the shipping company had had in place the safety management system required by law, the sum of information that the company had should have led to measures, notification and better follow-up to reduce the risk of further spread of infection, police prosecutor Ellingsen emphasizes.
Corporate Penalty for Hurtigruten
Hurtigruten Coastal AS (formerly Hurtigruten Cruise AS) is fined NOK 1 million for deficiencies in the safety management system, emergency preparedness, organization, reporting, risk assessment, facilitation and notification.
- The violation is considered to be significant, considering the number of passengers and crew, the nature of the disease, severity and infectivity, and the risk of further infection. The prosecuting authority imposes a fine on Hurtigruten for this, and believes based on the nature and seriousness of the violation that 1 million kroner is the correct fine, says acting public prosecutor Bremnes.
Corporate Penalty is given for violating the Ship safety and security act section 58, see section 69, see section 7 (safety management system), see Regulations concerning safety management systems for ships section 2 (safety management system, ISM code), see the ISM Code art. 8.3 and 9.1 (emergency preparedness, the company's organization, reporting to the company), see Regulations concerning the working environment, health and safety of workers on board ship sections 2-2 and 11-5 (risk assessment, arrangement and organization of work), and the Act relating to control of communicable diseases section 8-1 first paragraph, see section 1-2 fifth paragraph, see the Regulation regarding IHR section 5 first paragraph letter a, see second paragraph (duty to notify), in relation to the Penal code section 27 (corporate penalty).
Hurtigruten has been asked to agree whether to pay the fine or not within reasonable time.
Fine for Ship Captain and Doctor
The captain is fined NOK 30,000 for failure to notify Norwegian authorities of possible infection. The fine is given for violation of the Act relating to control of communicable diseases section 8-1 first paragraph, see section 1-2 fifth paragraph, see the IHR-regulation section 5 first paragraph letter a, see second paragraph (duty to notify).
The ship doctor on the second voyage is fined NOK 40,000 for deficiencies in the conduct of his profession, as well as failure to notify the Norwegian authorities. The fine is given for violating the Health personnel act section 67 first paragraph, see section 4 (requirements to professional conduct) and the Act relating to control of communicable diseases section 8-1 first paragraph, see section 2-3 first paragraph, see fourth paragraph, see the IHR-regulation section 4 first paragraph, see third paragraph (duty to notify).
Both are asked to agree whether the fine is payed or not within reasonable time.
Others Involved is Innocent
For the other individuals in the shipping company, CEO and COO, as well as for the ship doctor on the first voyage, there is no basis for personal criminal liability and the case is closed for them.
- For these, the criminal case is decided by dismissal on account of insufficient evidence. This means the same as an acquittal in court, and they should be treated as innocent, says Bremnes.