The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, is towed by a tugboat upon its arrival at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka on Saturday afternoon. Photo: Toru Hanai/Reuters
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7 crew missing, 3 injured after U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

61 Comments
By Idrees Ali and Tim Kelly

Seven sailors are missing and three were injured after a U.S. Navy destroyer collided early on Saturday morning with a Philippine-flagged container ship south of Tokyo Bay in Japan, the U.S. Navy said.

The Japanese Coast Guard said the destroyer was experiencing some flooding but was not in danger of sinking, while the merchant vessel was able to sail under its own power.

The U.S. Navy said in a statement the USS Fitzgerald, an Aegis guided missile destroyer, collided with a merchant vessel at about 2:30 a.m. local time, some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, a rare incident on a busy waterway.

Three aboard the destroyer had been medically evacuated, including the ship's commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, who was reportedly in stable condition after being airlifted to the U.S. Naval Hospital on the Yokosuka base, the Navy said.

The other two injured were transferred to the hospital to treat lacerations and bruises, it said. The Fitzgerald, the Japanese Coast Guard and Maritime Self-Defense Force were searching for the seven missing sailors.

Benson took command of the Fitzgerald on May 13. He had previously commanded a minesweeper based in Sasebo in western Japan.

It was unclear how the collision happened. "Once an investigation is complete then any legal issues can be addressed," the 7th Fleet spokesman said.

"The USS Fitzgerald suffered damage on her starboard side above and below the waterline," the Navy said in a statement.

The full extent of damage to the ship and injuries to its crew were still being determined, it said, adding that the Fitzgerald was operating under its own power, "although her propulsion is limited". The ship, part of an eight-ship squadron based in Yokosuka, had in February completed $21 million worth of upgrades and repairs.

A spokesman for the U.S. 7th Fleet said the ship was heading back to Yokosuka under its own power at 3 knots.

Japan's Nippon Yusen KK, which charters the container ship, ASX Crystal, said in a statement it would"cooperate fully" with the Coast Guard's investigation of the incident. At around 29,000 tons displacement, the ship is about three times the size of the U.S. warship, and was carrying 1,080 containers from the port of Nagoya to Tokyo.

None of the 20 crew members aboard, all Filipino, were injured, and the ship is not leaking oil, Nippon Yusen said. The ship was due to arrive at Tokyo Bay around 4:30 p.m., the Coast Guard said.

The waterways approaching Tokyo Bay are busy with commercial vessels sailing to and from Japan’s two biggest container ports in Tokyo and Yokohama.

International maritime rules for collision avoidance do not define right of way for any one vessel, but provide common standards for signaling between ships, as well as regulations on posting lookouts.

The USS Dewey and two Navy tugboats had been dispatched to provide assistance to the damaged destroyer, the Navy said.

Japan's public broadcaster NHK showed aerial footage of the ship, which had a large dent in its right, or starboard, side. Images broadcast by NHK showed it had been struck next to its Aegis radar arrays behind its vertical launch tubes.

The images showed what appeared to be significant damage on the deck and to part of the radar. NHK also showed footage of the container vessel and said it was heading towards Tokyo under its own power.

Such incidents are rare.

In May, the U.S. Navy's USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel but both ships were able to operate under their own power.

The 7th Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, thanked the Japanese Coast guard in a post on the fleet's Facebook page, adding: "We are committed to ensuring the safe return of the ship to port in Yokosuka."

© Thomson Reuters 2017.

©2017 GPlusMedia Inc.


61 Comments
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I know it happens, but I am always amazed that ships collide in the open waters of the Pacific.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Small news in USA.  it showed video with J Coast Guard helping large US ship in confusion.  Japanese? They seemed well behaving. American ship, Japanese coast guard had to rescue 320 confused sailors.  Southeast of Japan.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

Coastal waters are extremely crowded with vessels, especially the entrance to Tokyo Bay. From my sailing days I remember that the bridge was always extra manned to keep a lookout for the sheer number of small fishing boats in that area, which might make you move into the direction of something larger. This collision happened at 2.30 in the morning, which doesn’t help. Accidents, stupid accidents, happen. We managed once to sink a freighter while “navigating” out of the port of Lagos and the other ship was moored along the pier...

12 ( +13 / -1 )

The destroyer as well as the even larger PI flag containership should have had radars on with proximity alarms and people on watch 24/4 on the bridge. Neither could possibly have missed the other, although the damage suggests the containership came up from behind and starboard of the Fitzgerald. 7 sailors missing, 1 injured. Massive damage to Fitzgerald's starboard superstructure, while the containerhip appears to have just bow scrape on port side. Really would like to know just how this happened.

19 ( +20 / -1 )

Aegis radar! How is that possible?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Super high technology bumps into rather low tech?

The ocean is wide though, what ever happened to the lookout guy on top of the mast in a basket?

13 ( +14 / -1 )

This class of Destroyer has some of the best Radars, Sonars, and electronic monitoring systems available today. The Bridge and Combat Information Center failed to do their jobs properly if they allowed the ship to stand into " extremists" ( a point in a meeting or overtaking situation) that allows no room for maneuvering out of harms way. No matter what many Navy careers will be destroyed as an outcome and the Navy already suffering from in adequate ship's will now be down one pending repairs.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Yes, I watched the collision of two ships in the NHK video. Very horrendous accident. It's incomprehensible to a layman like me that a ship bothers to collide with another ship in the open sea. That said, given that the two ships were navigating in the dead of night, I consider it as a possible cause of the unfortunate collision this time. Hope everyone is all right.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The collision prevention regulations generally require ships to pass eachother port to port (the left side) so any ship that sustains damage on the starboard (right) side is usually presumed to be the one at fault. From photos I've seen, the navy ship appears to have been hit on its starboard side. They have some explaining to do.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Twelve crews are missing, in US news..

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Yet there is no word on the PI Ship? No concern for the PI sailors, the US destroyer is both smaller and more nimble than the contairship. It has far better detection systems than the merchant ship. Yet what bothers me most all of the news is about the US warship.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

How is it possible for the ship to dock in a couple of hours when its travelling at 3 knots and is 56 nautical miles from shore ? Wouldn't it take around 16 hours ? Something in the details is wrong

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Ooopsy my mistake 3 knots speed was after the collision

2 ( +3 / -1 )

We can be fairly certain the Captain and his Execs will receive an official reprimand and not receive another "command". US Warships have long required Captains to be on deck when other vessels are within 2 miles. And we can be fairly certain the container ship was on autopilot with a sleepy eye crew on watch. What is puzzling is how the US warship did not pick up the container ships AIS identification signal continuously transmitted. It is highly unlikely that the US Warship was disabled as it had multiple propoulions. This incident is virtually without parallel in the US Navy since WWII. Our Warship was one of the most advanced Warships in our fleet. That it was broadsided in open waters by a merchant ship running at 14 or 15 knots is unfathomable. So stay tuned.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

As car makers are trying hard to automatize cars with computers to avoid human errors, so should be the ships.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Yuto Otani

It probably bothers you only because you are decidedly against anything the American Military does.

-11 ( +4 / -15 )

YuriOtaniToday10:34 am JSTYet there is no word on the PI Ship? No concern for the PI sailors, the US destroyer is both smaller and more nimble than the contairship. It has far better detection systems than the merchant ship. Yet what bothers me most all of the news is about the US warship.

Firstly, the men on the PI flag containership, a merchant vessel are Seamen, not Sailors. Secondly while the destroyer has better detection systems, in terms of navigation radar there isn't as great a difference as you may imagine. As for the lack of news regarding the containership, if the scrape damage on the port bow is all that it  sustained, and the fact that the vessel continued on presumably to her next port of call, I doubt there were any injuries. Of course if the next port of call is in Japan the JCG will be there to examine it.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

thepersoniamnow the 7 missing US sailors really bothers me. I see them sleeping in their racks then the force of the collusion. A berting area is flooded and I can think of no worse way to die. Still I have not herd a thing about the PI ship. I can picture their bridge with a sleepy watch. Did their ship search radar fail them? I can picture the US ships bridge. They should of spotted the container ship from a long way away. A highly trained and skilled crew, what went wrong? I am not "blaming" either ships crew but this is such an improbable accident. The only thing I can do is to pray for the sailors.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

Like many here I am also puzzled to know how this could happen with all the radar tech on board.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

@CrazyJoe

What is puzzling is how the US warship did not pick up the container ships AIS identification signal continuously transmitted.

Perhaps mandatory AIS for warships operating so close to a shipping lane at night is one solution, especially in an age when everyone is glued to their screens rather than looking out the window? I understand the security concerns against it but this is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes where hundreds of people and ships can already see the comings and goings of the US Navy. Here in Yokohama, the coastguard ships switch on their AIS as they pass through the port area and switch off once they are clear of any traffic. Nobody wants to be confronted by such a massive dark ship in the middle of the night not transmitting AIS.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The warship suffered major damage. It had a refit last Feb. It's taking on water with flooding in some compartments.

The merchant ship has only minor damage and no reported loss of crew.

As of this time, there have been two patients requiring medical evacuation. One was Cmdr. Bryce Benson, Fitzgerald's commanding officer, who was transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka and is reportedly in stable condition. A second MEDEVAC is in progress. Other injured are being assessed. There are seven Sailors unaccounted for; the ship and the Japanese Coast Guard continues to search for them. 

http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=101080

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Containership port side, Aegis navy ship starboard damage suggests they were both heading in the same direction, and one was probably overtaking the other, unless they were at exactly the same speed.

They both came together, or one of them turned into the path of the other. Can there be any other scenario?

Lucky it wasn't a DPRK ship!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The damage to the merchant ship is in the bow area. It seems to be maintaining its course from Nagoya to Tokyo but currently its speed is 0.4 knots. Its not under command.

https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/ships/shipid:722169/mmsi:548789000/vessel:ACX%20CRYSTAL

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This accident and a recent unfavorable comparison by an American liaison officer of US Forces with European allies at the platoon and company level makes me wonder just how well prepared the US military is for a larger conflict.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The Destroyer is required to give right of way to the Merchant ship since the Merchant ship is a larger vessel, not as maneuverable, and on the Starboard Tack. The Destroyer Captain really screwed up.t.

16 ( +17 / -1 )

Everyone seems an expert on the situation how many people can say they actually know the USL hold tickets to captain a commercial vessel.The end of the day 7 people lost their lives a very tragic accident RIP.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

[At around 29,000 tons displacement it is about three times the size of the U.S. warship.]

I am not trying to make lite of the situation... But didn't someone, "anyone" see the other vessel!? Do they not have lights on either vessels, spot lights at the very least on the Destroyer? Do they not use radar these days or look outs!?

With events like these, NK does not have much to worry about.

Hopefully any overboard crewmen are found safe and sound and those injured get a full recovery on both sides.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

If there is any good in this situation it is that it was a military and not a commercial ship. A non-military vessel of a comparable size would likely have been ripped in half and would now be laying at the bottom of the bay.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

i don't know a damn thing about running a ship, except a small rowboat or sailboat from my Florida days, therefore I have no comment except I hope everyone is fine and it doesn't happen again.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

JSTYet there is no word on the PI Ship? No concern for the PI sailors, the US destroyer is both smaller and more nimble than the contairship. It has far better detection systems than the merchant ship. Yet what bothers me most all of the news is about the US warship.

Did you read the whole article? They said no one was hurt on the phillipino ship.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Like other non-sailors here, I am scratching my head how such a collision is possible in todays high-tech world, with sensors and whatnot. And ships do not exactly move a F1 racing speed...

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Good lord, I agree with YuriOtani. The first reports gave no info on the container ship. I assumed because of my connection with the shipping industry that its damage would be far less severe, but crew could still have been injured or killed. And there is no excuse for a floating sensor platform like this destroyer to have been caught by surprise, even by a sudden unannounced turn by another ship (and there is no suggestion that this happened). The Navy is going to blame the destroyer captain no matter what for getting into the situation. Just desperately hoping the crew members are somehow in an air pocket and will be rescued.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Well can't navigate open sea but can track ballistic rockets, perhaps. The family's must be devisted how on earth did this happen.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

That merchant container vessel looks HUMONGOUS compared to the destroyer. If the collision had been more impactful, like Mlodinow said, it's very possible this Navy ship would be resting (God forbid, along with some crew) on the bottom of the Pacific ocean by now..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, there you go, clearly the Philippines have mastered stealth technology that can make large container ships invisible to radar. I mean, how else could you explain that collision with a US Navy ship that has some of the best radar and surveillance equipment onboard? The USN ship had no chance in the dead of night.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I hope they were insured.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Regardless of how the accident happened (and it is not as improbable as many of you think) Bravo Zulu the Fitzgerald's Damage Control teams.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There was a live report on TV. The Philippine ship at 4 pm docked at Tokyo, only slight damage to the bow. The destroyer is still underway. The sea is calm, so she'll be at Yokosuka in one piece soon.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Bring back some dude with binoculars because obvious radar technology is failing the might US of A.

The American subs aren't much better re: Ehime Maru

2 ( +5 / -3 )

All emergency and auxiliary pumps going full blast. So close to breaking her back, I would guess. In one way they were very lucky!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The BBC reports that the container ship made a sudden U-turn 30 minutes before the collision.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40310563

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Pardon my sarcasm here.

However, I am sure that Russia and China are smiling right about now.

Maybe they overextended them self already and should refrain from provoking anyone into a war.

They are good at bombing everything back into the stone ages, and that is about it.

Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Syria and so on all US lead wars that have not been resolved to this day.

The repercussion are felt throughout the world to this day.

It may wise to nurture peace and send the troops back within US territories.

Yes, such accidents do happen, unfortunately the US has had most of such.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

An Admiralty Court will eventually rule on causation. From this report, the U.S. Naval vessel may have been in error. The maritime traffic is very busy in this area. It could have been a matter of choosing the least damaging of navigation scenarios. I'm certain there will be some lessons learned from this collision.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Reminds me of this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lighthouse_and_naval_vessel_urban_legend

The Cargo carrier being 3x the displacement of the US Destroyer would have had the maneuverability of slug in comparison. It would be useful to know what on earth happened here - either the US Destroyer's high tech radar doesn't work - in which case, a certain N. Korean will be rubbing his hands in glee, or someone messed up big time.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

So basically to beat the USA gallizion $ defense budget and technology you just need a few ships to crowd them? Obviously they can't keep track of where everyone is and more concerning is how are the going to stop multiply simultaneous missile launches from a rogue dictator if they can't multitask?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

navy ships generally operate under "emcon" status, that is, their radars are turned off most of the time when they are at sea. this is to prevent their position being picked up by enemy intelligence units (there are more around than you'd think) and having the signals analyzed by foreign intel agencies. it also reduces the amount of radiation the crew is exposed to.

still, a collision of this nature is bizarre, it must have been thick fog or a very serious breakdown in communication on the part of both ship crews. there are universal laws of the sea that should make this kind of thing impossible in a seaway with visibility.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Aegis radar! How is that possible?

Because the container ship wasn't an aircraft or missle, which is what the Aegis system is designed to detect, track and engage.c

0 ( +2 / -2 )

heir radars are turned off most of the time when they are at sea. this is to prevent their position being picked up by enemy intelligence 

Bull guano! No ship at sea in open water turns off its radar. Please prove your rather silly statement with some real facts.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

This is indisputably the fault of the US Navy but whatever happened at least it is preferable to finding out now than in an actual war situation.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Merchant ships are well insured privately.  US military ships, pentagon takes responsibility.  Don't you think Japanese Coast Guards are efficient?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This little-known bit of naval history might shed light on what might have happened.

http://www.eugeneleeslover.com/Humor/USS_Constitution.html

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Philippine container ship had crashed onto the starboard side of the US Navy Destroyer. The Philippine container ship ACX Crystal was relatively light damaged on the port bow.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

WilliBJune 1702:20 pm JST

Like other non-sailors here, I am scratching my head how such a collision is possible in todays high-tech world, with sensors and what not. And ships do not exactly move a F1 racing speed.

around 29,000 tons displacement, the ship is about three times the size of the U.S. warship, and was carrying 1,080 containers from the port of Nagoya to Tokyo.

29,000 tons of ship and 1,080 containers containing various cargo. Avoiding action would take a large area and time. Stopping distance would be measured in miles.

With today's technology collisions should be easier to avoid. But they still happen as the number of ships increase and the shipping routes become more crowded.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

is a larger vessel

No, the larger vessel does not have right of way and the smaller vessel is not required to give way except in a constrained channel. It is what usually happens because of the maeurverability issue, but it is NOT the rule of navigation.

I am not trying to make lite of the situation

And yet you are.

clearly the Philippines have mastered stealth technology...some of the best radar and surveillance equipment onboard?

Yeah, for tracking planes and missiles. I guess the Philippines have mastered flying 29,000 ton container ships.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Rules of the Sea do state that the ship or vessel on the port side gives way to the ship or vessel on the starboard side. It also states that power gives way to sail. But there are many instances when that does not make sense, like a small sailing yacht on the starboard side and a huge tanker on the port which should give way to the smaller yacht.

In this case, the container ship was on the starboard tack and the USS Fitzgerald on the port. The container ship was also much bigger and more difficult to maneuver. The Fitzgerald should have given way.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Neither ship had sails so that is irrelevant and none of us yet know what the initial orientation of the ships was.

But the Fitzgerald MAY have given way, while the container ship incorrectly also tried to give way and turned into the Fitzgerald rather than away.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Bull guano! No ship at sea in open water turns off its radar. Please prove your rather silly statement with some real facts.

Real facts: The surface search radar is only used when leaving port or in poor visibility conditions with lots of merchant or friendly ship traffic around.

It isn't even necessary for these ships to use radar, they have active and passive hull sonar that can certainly detect enormous container ships from miles away.

Besides that fact, I don't think anywhere in Japan had problems with severely limited visibility, the crews of both ships should have had strong lookouts posted and the lookouts should have been quicker in informing the captains about what the other ship was doing. It seems like both ships gave way in the wrong direction, or perhaps one did not bother to give way at all.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"It also states that power gives way to sail. But there are many instances when that does not make sense, like a small sailing yacht on the starboard side and a huge tanker on the port which should give way to the smaller yacht."

Reminds me of a question put to my sailing instructor in San Diego years ago. A student said he would have "right of way" if he encountered an aircraft carrier in the bay. I almost had to slap the instructor to get him to stop laughing.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Several reports had the merchant ship making an 180 degree turn in a busy shipping channel. If they had the right of way, they were required to maintain course and speed. That did not happen! I don't know who is at fault, but rest assured, the surface search radars were active (emcon - emission control is not done in shipping channels!) and lookouts are always posted when underway. Yes, a deep draft ship in a shipping channel that is constrained by its deep draft has the right of way, but is obligated to maintain course and speed. That does not correlate with the reported 180 degree true! So lets sit back and see what the investigation turns up.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Emcon - Emission Control. Yes, Navy ships are always under some Emcon condition, usually it is the unrestricted condition and all radios (communication) and radars (search) are active. Rarely is there complete radio and radar silence. That is turning off your eyes, a dangerous situation! I recall once having most of the radios and radars turned off, but left a surface search radar on (same electronic signal as on merchant ships) and going into the Sea of Japan at night between Honshu and Hokkaido. Clear weather and we were super careful. That was USS Midway many years ago. Sure surprised the Russian when we showed up unknown at their back door. In busy shipping channels, all the surface search radar are on, and being watch on the bridge and in combat (CIC or Combat Information Center). The US Navy Ship may be found to be at fault, or partially at fault, but I doubt it. With the public information that we have, saying the US Navy is at fault is irresponsible.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I would not like to fill in the accident claim form for this collision. In less than a 100 words can you give a brief description what happened and who do you think is at fault. with the aid of a drawing, who and where, were direction of the ship/s travelling. etc,

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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