First righting attemptSupport for those who lost loved ones

Was the crack known before the accident?

After the fact, questions about the cracks and their timeline has been raised several times
Written by Norwegian Petroleum Museum

According to the investigation commission, the Alexander L. Kielland accident was due to an error during the planning and construction of the rig. A welding defect in a support brace gradually developed into a crack and fatigue failure, which resulted in one of the rig´s legs being torn off.

There have been repeated questions afterward about whether the shipping company and the operator were aware of the existence of the crack before the accident, and if the tragedy could have been avoided.


Egenberg’s account:

The first time the police investigated this claim was in December 1981 and January 1982 after receiving tips that speech therapist Georg Egenberg had new information about the case. The police contacted Egenberg, who was interrogated on December 9th, 1981.

Egenberg mentioned meeting platform manager Torstein Sæd on Monday, March 24, just three days before the accident. The meeting occurred when the platform manager, who died in the accident, accompanied one of his children to a consultation with the speech therapist. They discussed his work in the North Sea. Sæd spoke about challenging working conditions and the urgency to fix a crack discovered in an underwater support brace.  An attempt had been made to weld the crack under water, but it was not sufficient. Sæd had raised the problem with the shipping company and requested a workshop overhaul as soon as possible. The plan was for Sæd himself to navigate the rig to Tananger for maintenance on March 27, 1980. However, he received a new order to continue working until relieved by the flotel Henrik Ibsen, expected from Stord Verft. Sæd was upset about the shipping company’s decision.

Here you can read the entire transcript from the police interrogation with Egenberg in 1981 (Norwegian):

Skanna materiale: Pa 1503 – Stavanger Drilling AS, SAST/A-101906/Da/L0001: Alexander L. Kielland – Begrensningssak Stavanger byrett, 1986, s. 292 – Skanna arkiver – Arkivverket (

The police investigated the case. Several individuals were interrogated, but no one could confirm Egenberg’s story about Sæd being aware of the fatal crack before the accident or any repair work being done on the bracing underwater.

Conclusions of French experts:

In 1983, French experts also spoke with Egenberg. They conducted their investigations of the bracing and fracture surfaces but found no traces of underwater repairs. Consequently, the French experts ruled out the possibility of any repairs to the brace before the accident. However, they found it credible that Sæd might have discovered cracks unknown to others as it was primarily his signature on inspection and maintenance reports. The French experts also raised questions about why people were still aboard Kielland if the platform manager was so concerned. Did he lack the courage to report, or did he only note his concerns in the logbook, which was not found? More about this can be found in the French expert report here (English):

Skanna materiale: Pa 1503 – Stavanger Drilling AS, SAST/A-101906/Da/L0007: Alexander L. Kielland – Rettssak i Paris, 1982-1988, s. 386 – Skanna arkiver – Arkivverket (

The question resurfaced during the trials in 1986 (limitation lawsuit). This time was Erna Håland Sæd, the widow of Platform Manager Sæd, who testified in court. She stated that her husband had been worried before his last trip to the North Sea, which was unusual for him. The reason for his concern was the crack he had discovered in the brace. He had reported this both verbally and in writing to the management of Stavanger Drilling, including director Alf Kaasen and Sverre Bjørn Nielsen.

Erna Håland Sæd’s witness statement starts at the bottom of this page (Norwegian):

Skanna materiale: Pa 1503 – Stavanger Drilling AS, SAST/A-101906/Da/L0001: Alexander L. Kielland – Begrensningssak Stavanger byrett, 1986, s. 54 – Skanna arkiver – Arkivverket (

Additionally, Egenberg’s testimony was presented during the trial in 1986 (Norwegian):

Skanna materiale: Pa 1503 – Stavanger Drilling AS, SAST/A-101906/Da/L0001: Alexander L. Kielland – Begrensningssak Stavanger byrett, 1986, s. 915 – Skanna arkiver – Arkivverket (

Furthermore, a handwritten note from Egenberg’s meeting with platform manager Sæd was found in the French archives. See the note here:

[Link to note]

Harry Nor-Hansen, the platform manager’s brother-in-law, and his wife also testified, stating that they had no knowledge of Sæd being concerned.

However, another piece of evidence might suggest that the platform manager might have been worried. Just a few days before Sæd’s last trip to the North Sea, he increased his life insurance policy. Further investigations indicated, however, that the insurance was likely increased for other reasons.

Read more about it here: The platform manager increased his insurance policy before his last trip

The fact that the brace was a wet brace made it unlikely that Sæd had known about it. The brace would have been under the sea level and filled with sea water. Torgeir Moan, responsible for the technical inquiries after the accident claims that it was impossible to inspect these braces at sea. Thus Sæd could not have discovered the crack before the accident.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Tungland E.M., Solbakken M.S., Kongsnes E. (2020) Kielland, basert på historien til de som var der. s.262. Kiellandnettverket.


Several of those who worked on Kielland claim that it was possible. During the court procedings of 1986, a former technical manager of Stavanger Drilling claimed that Platform Manager Sæd planned such an inspection in August-September of 1979, but it was not done.

Read more: Was it possible to inspect the D6 brace at sea?

Another argument which could undermine the credibility of Egenberg’s account is that if the platform manager had discovered cracks and attempted to repair them, this would have been documented in logs and in the platform manager’s diary. However, available written documentation does not confirm Egenberg’s statements.

Documentation about what happened in the weeks before the accident is missing. This includes notes in the platform manager’s diary and deck reports from January 23rd to March 27th, 1980.

Read more about it in Missing Deck Reports and Platform Manager’s Diary.

After the trial in 1986, the claim about the cracks was not investigated further. The reasoning for this is summarized in a letter from the Regional Prosecutor.

[Link to letter]

Questions about cracks in 2016:

In connection with the University of Stavanger’s work on the book “Råolje” (2016), the question of whether the crack was known before the accident arose again when control room operator Eivind Egeli stated in interviews that Stavanger Drilling was aware of crack formations on Alexander L. Kielland prior to the accident.

“Every time Torstein Sæd came out, he went down into the support columns and checked. He kept an eye on the crack. He took the elevator down. I assumed this was reported to Phillips and Stavanger Drilling.”

Former Director of Det Norske Veritas, Egil Abrahamsen, was also interviewed in 2016. He mentioned that cracks in steel structures are not uncommon. Therefore, it is likely that Sæd kept an eye on cracks. He also believes he heard that the crew reported about cracks before the accident.

Holger Boge’s comments in 2022:

The documentation project received an email on March 2, 2022, from former platform manager at Stavanger Drilling, Holger Boge, commenting on the claim that the crack triggering the accident was reported before the disaster. He stated, among other things, that the crack triggering the accident was located in a wet brace several meters underwater. Inspecting the brace from a boat was possible, but to find this type of crack it would have needed high-pressure flushing and then sandblasting to detect. It wasn’t a crack one could insert a finger into.

Boge also mentioned that the wet braces on “ALK” were inspected in calm waters in Tananger harbor in the spring of 1977. The five-hour inspection was conducted by a platform manager and a chief engineer. No cracks were found in the braces. This is quite natural since NDT technology is necessary to find such cracks.

Boge thus dismisses the claims that Sæd knew about the crack that triggered the accident. However, Stavanger Drilling had a program for inspections of tanks and braces that were accessible in the field. These inspections were followed up by Sæd and other platform managers.

Further reading:

Read the full interview with Eivind Egeli in the Alexander L. Kielland MemoryBank.

Eivind Egeli, Memory Bank

Read the full interview with Egil Abrahamsen in the Alexander L. Kielland Memory Bank

Egil Abrahamsen, Memory Bank


    close Close