7 Missing after Destroyer hits Merchant Ship

Reply Fri 16 Jun, 2017 05:14 pm
A US destroyer collided off the coast of Japan.
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Reply Fri 16 Jun, 2017 05:15 pm

Washington (CNN)A US Navy destroyer is under its own power but has limited propulsion after colliding with a merchant ship about 56 nautical miles off the coast of Yokosuka, Japan, a US Navy official told CNN on Friday.

The USS Fitzgerald suffered damage to its starboard side above and below the waterline, resulting in some flooding, the Navy said.
The vessel was taking on water after the incident, but the crew was working to stabilize the ship by pumping water out of the hold, a US Navy official told CNN.
The official said emergency procedures have been put in place and the ship is not in danger of sinking at this time.
The Japanese Coast Guard is on the scene and a US official said that US tugboats and other Navy assets, including aircraft, are on the way. The official said the merchant vessel involved in the collision is the ACX Crystal based out the Philippines.
The USS Fitzgerald requested the assistance from the Japanese Coast Guard after the collision occurred at approximately 2:30 am local time on Saturday.
The US Navy's 7th Fleet twitter account says the Navy is working with the Japanese Coast Guard to conduct a medical evacuation of the injured. A Navy official told CNN they are currently working on an accurate accountability for the entire crew of the ship.
The Fitzgerald is an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer with a crew of approximately 330 sailors.
The ship completed $21 million in upgrades and repairs in February and is currently forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the service said.
The White House is tracking the incident, an administration official told CNN.
This story is breaking and will be updated.
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Reply Fri 16 Jun, 2017 05:20 pm
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Reply Sat 17 Jun, 2017 08:34 pm
ABC13 Houston
7 mins ·
BREAKING: The U.S. Navy says the bodies of sailors who went missing in the collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship have been found aboard the stricken destroyer.
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Reply Sun 18 Jun, 2017 06:37 am
‘Traumatic’ collision that killed sailors almost sank destroyer, Navy says

By Anna Fifield June 18 at 6:47 AM
YOKOSUKA, Japan — A U.S. Navy destroyer came close to sinking after a “traumatic” collision off the coast of Japan, the commander of the Seventh Fleet said Sunday, after the bodies of the missing sailors were found in the berthing compartments of the stricken vessel.

Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin declined to say how many of the seven missing sailors had been recovered, because the families of those who died were still being informed on Sunday.

But Aucoin said that the search and rescue mission was over, and The Navy Times reported that the bodies of all seven missing sailors had been found in the ship’s flooded berthing compartments.

Multiple investigations are now underway to determine how a technologically advanced American warship was not able to get out of the way of the huge and cumbersome container ship, even if it had right of way.

“This was a severe emergency,” Aucoin said at the Yokosuka naval base, home of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, Sunday afternoon. The damaged Aegis guided-missile destroyer was docked behind him, pumps continuing to bring water up out of the hull. “The damage was significant. This was not a small collision.”

Aucoin is commander of the Seventh Fleet. (AP)
Most of the damage occurred under the waterline in the form of a huge gash to the hull near the ship’s keel, which led to a “tremendous” amount of water rushing into two berthing cabins and a machinery room, he said.

“There wasn’t a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea and as you can see now, the ship is still listing,” Aucoin, gesturing to the destroyer behind him. “They had to fight this ship to keep it above the surface. It was traumatic.”

The crew stopped the ship from foundering or sinking and got it back to port, he said. The destroyer is salvageable, but repairs probably will take months, Aucoin said.

The collision occurred at about 2:20 a.m. local time Saturday, about 50 miles south-west of the U.S. Navy base at Yokosuka.

Marine tracking data showed the container ship, the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal, which was sailing from the port of Nagoya to Tokyo, performed a sudden 180-degree turn in the busy shipping lane south of Yokosuka and doubled back along its path shortly before the crash. The weather was clear with a swell of about six feet at the time.

The fully-loaded Crystal was nearly four times the size of the Fitzgerald, and photos from the scene showed scrapes to the port side of its bow. The Crystal is operated by Nippon Yusen K.K., a Japanese shipping company, and all 20 crew members were reported safe and unharmed.

However, the destroyer, nicknamed “The Fighting Fitz” within the Navy, suffered severe damage on its starboard side.

Photos of Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald after collision with container ship
View Photos Seven U.S. Navy sailors are missing off the coast of Japan after an Aegis guided-missile destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, collided with a container ship, causing significant damage and flooding.
The impact struck berthing compartments that contained space for 116 sailors and completely destroyed the commanding officer’s cabin. Cmdr. Bryce Benson was the first to be evacuated from the damaged vessel and is being treated at the U.S. naval hospital at Yokosuka. He was awake but not yet able to answer questions.

“He’s lucky to be alive,” Aucoin said.

Two others were airlifted off the ship and treated in the hospital for lacerations and bruises. The remains of the missing sailors had also been taken to the hospital for identification.

Because of the hour, many sailors were sleeping when the collision happened, but the ship had a “full complement” of bridge crew on duty, Aucoin said. There was no indication of any problem with the navigational equipment, he said.

Other service members and their relatives took to the Seventh Fleet’s Facebook page to bid the victims “Fair winds and following seas shipmates” — a traditional mariner’s farewell.

American and Japanese investigations are underway, but Aucoin said he would not speculate on how long they would take to get to the bottom of the accident.

Analysts said that such a collision was highly unusual.

“We just don't expect a very capable warship to be so badly damaged in a normal, peacetime environment,” said Patrick Cronin, head of the Asia-Pacific program at the Center for a New American Security.

While there are extensive international guidelines to prevent collisions at sea, in some ways it didn’t matter who had right of way in this case, he said.

“In my mind, our destroyer is a more capable, agile ship so regardless of who has right-of-way, our ship should be able to take evasive action,” Cronin said.

Collisions at sea have become rare events in recent decades as navigational technology has improved.

The current case recalled the collision between the submarine USS Greeneville and a training ship belonging to a Japanese fishery high school in 2001 off the coast of Hawaii.

In that incident, the Greeneville suddenly surfaced underneath the Japanese ship, causing it to sink and claiming nine lives, four of them high school students.

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“Things like this happens because of human error, sometimes complicated by some technical difficulty,” Cronin said, calling it “heroic” that the crew was able to get back to port. “U.S.-Japan cooperation has been fantastic,” he said.

Japanese coastguard and military ships assisted with the rescue, and Japanese planes and helicopters searched the waters before the bodies were found.

That shows how the alliance between the United States and Japan helps American interests, analysts said. In previous statements, President Trump had called the value of the alliance into question, complaining on the campaign trail that the United States was paying “billions” for the defense of Japan, a rich country.

The Fitzgerald is part of the Yokosuka-based naval group that includes the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, but it was operating independently of the carrier when the collision occurred.

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Reply Mon 19 Jun, 2017 04:53 am
The headline shocked the close-knit world of the surface Navy: Seven sailors aboard the destroyer USS Fitzgerald were killed, and other crew members injured, when the warship collided with a cargo vessel off Japan.

As the Navy family grieves, both it and the wider world are asking the same question: How did this happen?

The short answer is that no one knows — yet. The official inquiries into what led up to the encounter could take months or more. The Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard both likely will eventually issue reports that describe what happened and could make recommendations for preventing another such accident.

"I will not speculate on how long these investigations will last," said Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the Navy's 7th Fleet. The Fitzgerald and the other ships of Destroyer Squadron 15, based outside Tokyo, fall under his authority.

There are clues, however, that explain how something like the Fitzgerald's collision could happen, including the photographs of the ships involved, navigation data about the container ship ACX Crystal, and the experience the Navy has had with past mishaps.

The $1.8-billion Fitzgerald is one of the most modern and technologically advanced warships afloat, capable of using its powerful sensors to look up into space, if necessary, and reach up to hit targets there with its battery of missiles.

U.S. Navy Identifies 7 Sailors Found Dead After Navy Destroyer's Collision
'A Number Of' U.S. Sailors Found Dead After Navy Destroyer's Collision
The destroyer still has a human crew, however, most of which was likely asleep at around 2:30 a.m. local time when it collided with the Crystal. There was no moon over the waters south of Tokyo Bay, according to local accounts, and the channel there is frequently crowded with ships on their way into and out of the Japanese capital. Vessels of all sizes sail to other ports in Asia or head east into the vast Pacific.

Sailors in the Fitzgerald's combat information center and on its bridge are responsible for using the ship's sensors to plot the location of each one, as well as the directions they're headed and the speed at which they're sailing. Officers and sailors must at all times keep what the Navy calls good "situational awareness" about not only what their own ship is doing, but about what might be ahead in the next patch of ocean where the Fitzgerald wants to sail.

In 2012 a sibling of the Fitzgerald, the destroyer USS Porter, was in a congested, high-traffic seaway called the Strait of Hormuz — the ribbon of water that connects the Persian Gulf with the Arabian Sea — when it collided with an oil tanker. The Navy's investigation later found that as sailors tried to keep track of the traffic all around them, including those ships headed the other direction, they lost focus on their own immediate course ahead.

When the tanker Otowasan suddenly loomed ahead, Cmdr. Martin Arriola ordered the Porter to turn left to cross ahead of the huge other ship to avoid a head-on crash. But he hadn't done so with enough time, and not even ordering full speed at the last minute could get the destroyer safely clear. The Otowasan hit the Porter along its right — or starboard — side, in a location on the ship very near where the ACX Crystal hit the Fitzgerald early Saturday.

Sailors watch pier-side as the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.
MC1 Peter Burghart/U.S. Navy
But when the sun came up and photos appeared of both ships, they revealed the Crystal had damage on the left or port side of its bow — suggesting it might have been traveling in the same direction as the Fitzgerald. It may have been trailing the smaller destroyer at a perpendicular angle that stayed relatively the same even as the distance between the ships closed: "constant bearing, decreasing range"

If the crew of the Fitzgerald was watching what was ahead of them and got used to the presence of the container ship on their starboard quarter because it didn't appear to be moving in either direction relative to the destroyer — even though it was getting closer all the while — the sailors might not have realized what was happening until they were in extremis.

Another similar possibility: the Fitzgerald wanted to sail east, say, and its course crossed over that of the Crystal, heading north. The destroyer might have been like someone trying to get across a busy street, thinking it could get out of the way of the oncoming cars in time — in this case, a miscalculation.

Investigators will focus closely on what the crews on both ships were doing. When the fast attack submarine USS Hartford collided with the amphibious transport USS New Orleans in 2009, discipline on the sub was lax, the Navy later found. The Hartford's captain never came into the control room during the transit through the crowded Strait of Hormuz. The navigator was in the wardroom listening to his iPod.

It's possible that no one was on the bridge of the Crystal — even huge container ships are comparatively lightly crewed, compared with Navy ships, and unlike warships, often use an autopilot. In the wide open Pacific, mariners sometimes let "Iron Mike" take the helm. After a series of accidents, the U.S. Coast Guard warned mariners last year about the dangers involved with relying too heavily on autopilot.

The Fitzgerald's bridge almost certainly was crewed, by sailors and officers on the overnight "midwatch", and those are the watchstanders who may have made the critical decisions about what to do or not do before the collision.

Were they managing a whole screen full of contacts and too distracted to notice the one bearing down on them? Or was it a quiet night with so little to do that the crew became bored and complacent? Investigators will conduct interviews, review navigational data and could even listen to recordings of what happened on the bridge, like the one eventually released from the Porter.

One detail already is known: The Fitzgerald's commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was in his cabin at the time of the accident, 7th Fleet's Aucoin said. The captain's compartment is located on the starboard side of the ship that was crushed by the Crystal, and Benson was hurt — the Japanese Coast Guard took him to shore by helicopter.

Other sailors were berthed in compartments farther below decks, which were flooded by the Crystal's bulbous bow. In all, two berthing compartments and one machinery space, which houses one of the gas turbines for making the ship's electrical power, quickly filled with seawater.

"Heroic efforts prevented the flooding from catastrophically spreading which could have caused the ship to founder or sink," Aucoin said. "It could have been much worse."

The Fitzgerald limped into Tokyo under its own power; the crew of the multi-mission Aegis combatant used a magnetic compass and their backup instruments to get home with only one of the ship's two propellers.

The destroyer now needs millions of dollars' worth of repairs, including a visit to a dry dock, before it could be ready to take another mission. The Navy identified the seven sailors who died in the accident on Sunday evening.

Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley vowed that service officials would answer the question everyone is now asking: how it could have happened.

"In due time, the United States Navy will fully investigate the cause of this tragedy," he said, "and I ask all of you to keep the Fitzgerald families in your thoughts and prayers as we begin the task of answering the many questions before us."

0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 19 Jun, 2017 10:54 am
This is one of the worst accidents which can happen on sea, next to fire.
It must have been a terrible death to drown in a flooded berthing compartment - my berth/berthing had always been below the waterline).

Since I'm not an armchair navigator, I'd thought at first: damage on starboard = not giving way to the other ship.

But then I learnt
- that the ACX Crystal made a complete U-turn between 12:58 a.m. and 2:46 a.m. on June 17. (15:58 GMT and 17:46 GMT) - there might be a reason for it,
- that collision happened at around 1:30 a.m. but it was not until 2:25 a.m. (local time) until the container ship informed the Japanese coastguard of the accident - there might be a reason for it,
- that there's information, if and when the USS Fitzgerald reported the accident - there might be reason for that, too.

Although the collision occurred in Japanese waters, under a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that defines the scope of the U.S. military’s authority in Japan, the U.S. Navy could claim it has the authority to lead the investigations - there could be could issues of which side has jurisdiction and access to data such as radar records that the United States could deem classified.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 20 Jun, 2017 02:11 am
@Walter Hinteler,
The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions.
When attending the German Naval Tactical Academy (navigation department), we learnt some mnemonic aids to help remember the contents

It's the same elsewhere:
"Red over Red, the Captain’s dead".
"Red over Green, sailing machine".
... ... ...

In the merchant navy, they've another one:
"If it’s grey stay away."
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Reply Tue 20 Jun, 2017 04:39 am
I've been in the same water on a destroyer. I am still trying to understand how it happened, even after reading their explanation.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 26 Jun, 2017 05:48 am
Multiple U.S. and Japanese investigations are under way into how the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the much larger ACX Crystal container ship collided in clear weather south of Tokyo Bay in the early hours of June 17.

In the first detailed account from one of those directly involved, the cargo ship's captain said the ACX Crystal had signaled with flashing lights after the Fitzgerald "suddenly" steamed on to a course to cross its path.

The container ship steered hard to starboard (right) to avoid the warship, but hit the Fitzgerald 10 minutes later at 1:30 a.m., according to a copy of Captain Ronald Advincula's report to Japanese ship owner Dainichi Investment Corporation that was seen by Reuters.

The U.S. Navy declined to comment and Reuters was not able to independently verify the account.
Source: reuters

This contradicts what has been published earlier (here quoted from the U.S. Naval Institute):
According to the current operational theory of Japanese investigators, the deadly collision between USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and the Philippine-flagged merchant ship ACX Crystal knocked out the destroyer’s communications for an hour, while the four-times-larger merchant ship was unaware of what it hit until it doubled back and found the damaged warship, two sources familiar with the ongoing Japanese investigation told USNI News on Wednesday.
Investigators now think Crystal was transiting to Tokyo on autopilot with an inattentive or asleep crew when the merchant vessel struck a glancing blow on the destroyer’s starboard side at about 1:30 AM local time on Friday. When the crew of Crystal realized they had hit something, the ship performed a U-turn in the shipping lane and sped back to the initial site of the collision at 18 knots, discovered Fitzgerald, and radioed a distress call to authorities at about 2:30 AM. U.S. Navy officials initially said the collision occurred at around the time of the distress call at 2:30 AM.
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Reply Mon 26 Jun, 2017 05:51 am
Thanks for following up, Walter.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 30 Jun, 2017 02:48 am
reuters: U.S. likely to bar Japan investigators from interviewing warship crew, official says
The United States will likely bar Japanese investigators from interviewing USS Fitzgerald crew manning the guided missile destroyer when it was struck by a cargo ship in Japanese waters killing seven American sailors, a U.S. navy official said.
At least six investigations are being carried out, including two U.S. Navy internal hearings and one by the United States Coast Guard (USCG). The Philippines government is also conducting an investigation.

The U. S. Coast Guard, which is investigating on behalf of the National Transportation Safety Board, has interviewed the crew of the container ship.

But the U.S. navy official, who declined to be identified, said warships were afforded sovereign immunity under international law and foreign investigators were not expected to get access to the U.S. crew. ... ... ...

The U.S. Coast Guard would instead provide summaries of crew interviews to the Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB), which would share them with the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), he said.

Declining access may be viewed by Japanese investigators as falling short of a pledge made by Seventh Fleet commander Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin of full cooperation in the investigation.

"We have asked for access to the U.S. ship and its crew and can't proceed until we hear back from the U.S. Navy," said a spokesman for the JTSB. He said he was unaware that the U.S. side was likely to turn down the request.

A Seventh Fleet spokesman said the navy would "share information in accordance with protocols."

... ... ...
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 13 Jul, 2017 12:11 am
@Walter Hinteler,
The accident is still subject to multiple investigations without any published results.
But by now, USS Fitzgerald has entered dry dock at a United States Navy base in Yokosuka, Japan to continue repairs and assess damage following its June 17 collision.

(U.S. Navy photo by Daniel A. Taylor/Released by FLEACT Yokosuka Public Affairs Office)
Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 21 Jul, 2017 10:53 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Unnamed defence official says the crew would be held accountable for the crash off Japan, which left seven US sailors dead.

“The way it looks now, it seems that the crew on the (USS) Fitzgerald is going to be at fault,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

“They are certainly going to be held accountable in some way for their actions,” the official added.

“This is something we take very seriously. There are seven sailors that lost their lives.”

Senior spokeswoman rear admiral Dawn Cutler stressed the investigation was still in its “early stages” and said it was too soon to release any definitive information.


The incident has spurred a number of investigations, including those by the U.S. Navy and a probe by the United States Coast Guard on behalf of the National Transportation Safety Board. The Japan Transport Safety Board and the Philippines government are conducting separate investigations.
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Reply Sat 22 Jul, 2017 08:45 am
Thanks, Walter.
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Reply Sat 22 Jul, 2017 11:27 am
Most people find it difficult to imagine how such collisions at sea could occur at all in an era in which radar surveillance of nearby ships & shorelines; GPS navigation, and instant radio communications are routinely available. To better understand the reality it's worth noting that this collision occurred; (1)at night; (2) in a heavily travelled shipping channel; and (3) involved as 18o degree turn or course reversal on the part of one of the vessels involved.

To better understand it's important to try and visualize the perspective from a ship's bridge on a dark night with only lights visible - lights from objects and vehicles on both shorelines and lights from other ships in the channel - that are often hard to distinguish one fro the other. Unless you are continuously tracking the movements of each ship seen on the radarscope over time, a glance at the scope tells you only where these objects are now - it doesn't tell you the course they are steering or whether or not they are turning or following a steady course. Visually determining the relative orientation of another ship (i.e. its course relative to your own" at night, is difficult under the best of circumstances, and particularly so if one of the vessels has been significantly changing its course or turning. The general rule is to beware of any visual (or radar) detection of an object having a constant (over time) relative bearing from your own vessel - that indicates convergence and potential collision. However detecting this on the part of a vessel that is or has been in a turn is particularly difficult.

Investigations of such events almost invariably reveal errors and confusion in the parts of both vessels, particularly on the part of the one that failed to detect an imminent collision and take last minute evasive actions to avoid the collision. In this case it was the U.S. Destroyer.

In our Navy accountability is enforced strictly. A bad outcome such as this is deemed to be the fault of the Captain, no matter what the degree of his direct involvement, or lack of it.

Walter Hinteler
Reply Sat 22 Jul, 2017 12:09 pm
My own experiences were only with smaller ships (minesweepers and landing crafts), and in a time when GPS was unknown.

But since I've navigated through The Channel (La Manche) a couple of times (nearly all times at night), I know a bit about it.

Reply Sat 22 Jul, 2017 12:14 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
I'm sure you do.
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Reply Sat 22 Jul, 2017 03:57 pm
I stood watch on a destroyer but that was through 1964. I don't recall any situations similar. But our officers checked radar constantly and we visuals reported everything we saw.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Sat 22 Jul, 2017 11:18 pm
Seems, the crew is blamed now (report at Fox).

I think, even with all those navigational aids, some sailors on watch in such a busy traffic region would have done some good. (We had a second sailor on watch instead of just one plus the captain joined the officer of the watch on the bridge many times - but that's 40 years ago ...)

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