Home » Budget Industry » Investigators Believe USS Fitzgerald Crew Fought Flooding For An Hour Before Distress Call Reached Help

Investigators Believe USS Fitzgerald Crew Fought Flooding For An Hour Before Distress Call Reached Help

USS Fitzgerald pier side at the U.S. naval base at Yokosuka, Japan

The crew of the guided-missile destroyer that was struck by a merchant ship on Friday off the coast of Japan fought to save the ship for an hour before the first calls went out for help, Japanese investigators now believe.

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.

ACX Crystal off of Japan following the collision with the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) on June 17, 2017. Kyodo Photo

Meanwhile, when Crystal’s port bow hit Fitzgerald, the warship was performing a normal transit off the coast of Japan, USNI News understands. Above the waterline, the flared bow of Crystal caved in several spaces in the superstructure, including the stateroom of commanding officer Cmdr. Bryce Benson.

The impact not only ripped a hole in the steel superstructure in the stateroom but also shifted the contents and shape of the steel so Benson was “squeezed out the hull and was outside the skin of the ship,” a sailor familiar with the damage to the ship told USNI News.
“He’s lucky to be alive.”

View of the stateroom of Cmdr. Bryce Benson after the collision with ACX Crystal.

Fitzgerald sailors had to bend back the door of the stateroom to pluck Benson from the side of the ship and bring him inside. He and two other sailors were later evacuated from the ship via a Japanese helicopter to a Navy hospital at Yokosuka.

Pictures of Benson’s stateroom from the door show the steel bent back to reveal open air, and a photo of the ship’s exterior pier-side shows almost the entire stateroom was crushed.

Meanwhile, below decks, the glancing blow of Crystal’s bulbous bow had ripped a 10-feet-by-10-feet to 14-feet-by-14-feet hole below the waterline of the ship, flooding a machinery space the berthing area that was home to about half of the crew, the sailor said.

Over the weekend, U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin confirmed the spaces that were affected by the collision.

Diagram of USS Fitzgerald showing where damage from ACX Crystal occurred.

“Three compartments were severely damaged,” Aucoin said at the Saturday press conference.
“One machinery room and two berthing areas — berthing areas for 116 of the crew.”

The seven sailors who died aboard were sealed in the berthing area behind a watertight door as the ship’s company fought to keep the ship afloat, according to a description of events the Navy told the family of Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., according to The Associated Press.
It’s yet unclear if the ship’s watch had time to sound the collision alarm or call general quarters before Crystal hit the destroyer.

In addition to the damage to the spaces, the collision knocked out Fitzgeralds communications for the better part of an hour. At about the same time the crew was able to reactivate their backup Iridium satellite communications to radio for help, Crystal arrived on the scene and called in its own distress call, the sailor told USNI News.

A photo compilation depicting the seven sailors who died during June 17, 2017 collision between a merchant ship and the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald. USNI News Image

A photo compilation depicting the seven sailors who died during June 17, 2017 collision between a merchant ship and the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald. USNI News Image

U.S. Navy investigators are being tight-lipped about details of the investigation, even inside the service. However, information USNI News learned from the Japan Coast Guard investigation indicates Fitzgerald was operating normally when the collision occurred, raising questions more questions regarding why Benson wasn’t on the bridge when a contact was so close to the destroyer.

On Monday, U.S 7th Fleet began a flag officer-led Judge Advocate General Manual (JAGMAN) investigation to determine the facts of the collision, as well as a separate U.S. Navy safety investigation. The U.S. Coast Guard will take lead in a maritime casualty investigation.

As for the ship, five days after collision active damage control efforts are ongoing to prevent further damage to the hull. The force of Crystal’s impact combined with the flood not only dented but twisted the ship’s hull. Crews are continuing to pump water in and out of the ship to keep Fitzgerald stable.

USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. US Navy Photo

Naval Sea Systems Command is now assessing if the ship can be repaired in Japan or would have to be transported to the U.S. for repairs.

While investigation and repairs are ongoing, the ship’s crew has been given time away from the ship in an attempt to recover from the collision. The burden of ships’ watches is being shared by other crews on the Yokosuka waterfront, Navy officials told USNI News on Wednesday.
Both Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steve Giordano both visited Yokosuka to speak with Fitzgerald sailors and their families.

  • kaiwuds

    They are lucky it was a regional transport and not a transoceanic monster which would have sunk the DDG, likely by cutting in half as the Queen Mary did to a Royal Navy cruiser in WWII.

    The loss of comms is troubling. Sure it was a solid hit but still, nothing like a missile strike. Need to build them a little tougher.

    • Jake

      Modern ships aren’t built to take missiles. Would require too much armor and be too heavy. Anti Missile defense, jammers, decoys and pure luck is how a modern navy runs.

    • DaSaint

      Distributed lethality means nothing if you don’t have distributed command, control, and communications.

      • USNVO

        You are mixing up your concepts.

        Distributed Lethality refers to the fleet and the fleet has distributed CCC, no one but the Fitzgerald lost communications.

        The ship has centralized CCC so the CO can effectively operate and fight the ship in a coordinated manner. Since the invention of effective main gun fire control before WWI, the ships has been becoming more and more centralized.

    • Zero

      The idea is to not get hit. The days of heavy armor are over as the weapons we fight won’t be phased by that very much.

    • USNVO

      If radio central in a battleship was flooded, it would have lost comms too. The ship did not lose comms because it was hit, it lost comms because radio central filled with salt water. Radio central is probably below the waterline, just like CIC, to protect it from the most likely damage, which is not ramming.

  • fat eddie

    I think that although the bulbous bow on the Crystal did the damage below the waterline, it also prevented the ship from riding up onto the Fitzgerald and wiping out the bridge also, might think about a auxiliary radio room too !, no flares on the bridge ?, to call for help

  • Discriminator

    One thing to come out of all this, I believe, is a demand for an EMCON Mode for AIS, to allow USN to passively track commercial ships without transmitting their own posit. It seems almost a certainty that Fitz had it turned off.

    • Alex_Turco

      This mode exists.

      • Sam Hemson

        I stood 5 years of bridge watch from 2009-14 and on both a DDG and an LCS. We not only had AIS but it was integrated into the charts and radar overlays. Almost every time i came up to assume the deck it was turned off because of other OODs personal preference to see the screen cleared. It was my last year when we hit a patch of nasty fog in a heavy shipping area. I went to the Captain and told him we should broadcast AIS for the duration of the fog. He didn’t understand what AIS was. He asked me lots of question and agreed we should turn it on. I was able to convince him of the importance of requiring it to be up (in passive mode) on the overlays at all times. He agreed and the SOPs were updated. All the ships have it, but not all ships use it. COLREGs: “all available means”

        • Michael Hanten

          I concur, most AISs can be operated in “Receive Only” Mode, but that is a make and model feature that not all manufactures provide. As a Commanding Officer with two deployments to the Arabian Gulf, I always operated mine in “Receive Only” and shifted to “Transmit and Receive” when in close quarters situations where I felt collision avoidance was more critical than OPSEC.

          • Rexford L

            I always saw it turned on to receive only when I happened to wander to the bridge. (I was normally standing watch in CSMC as CSOOW when underway)

  • Topnife

    The Navy hasn’t admitted a lot of things about this collision yet:
    >> The Fitz was the burdened vessel, according to all the descriptions. It was obliged to keep out of the other ship’s way. How did an Aegis warship maneuver in front of another vessel, against all the rules-of-the-road, with all her radars blazing and a CIC calculating closest point of approach every few seconds.
    >> The Fitz’ CO was asleep in his stateroom, right behind the bridge, when the collision occurred! Why had he not been called to the bridge?
    >> No word so far, if GQ was called, or a Collision Alarm was sounded. A collision warning might have allowed 7 dead sailors to wake up breathing air, rather than water.
    >> Being run down by a 40,000 ton ship should not have been a total surprise to the OOD and bridge watch, or the CIC of a Aegis ship either. No way that someone would not notice a huge ship bearing down on them, even if only for 30 seconds or less, unless someone was asleep on watch.
    >> It’s astonishing that all communications assets would be concentrated in just one area of the ship, such that the ship would have been rendered completely silent by a single “hit”.
    >> That ship looks “bent”. The damage extended virtually to the keel, and a 40,000 ton ship rode up over it and bore down. Have a look at the pix: the line of the hull is visibly bent. Scratch one DDG.
    >> What is happening to the Navy that I love???

    • Truthiness111


      • wfraser11

        off topic and mean

      • tim

        Men. I am one 😉

      • Topnife

        Rex, I’d say that the issue of women has been pretty well concluded, unless you are one of the now very old-timers who believe that a woman aboard ship causes bad luck.
        Nowadays, there are some very competent women, and some less so, just as is the case with men. Certainly, having women aboard has created some new types of problems (e.g., high rate of pregnancy), but that should not have had any effect on the Fitz’ performance (unless the investigation discovers some really strange goings-on by the bridge watch).
        Better get used to it, because having women aboard ship is not going to stop.

        • woodsman96

          It will stop when we get into a real war.

          • BillSwift

            Except Iraq and Afghanistan evidence seems to suggest that women can perform ably and admirably in combat. Or, you could ask the Israelis.

          • Topnife

            Actually, I read recently that the Israelis have placed some restrictions on what women can be assigned to do, based upon their prior battle experiences.
            Personally, I have a real concern about women having combat duties where close cooperation is critical, and men may resort to excess risks to “save” them, besides obvious problems with strength and speed.
            Women (some of them) can achieve superb skills, such as flying fighter jets. Even then, having testosterone in one’s blood may still give men an advantage.

    • Bill Clements

      It took 4 1/2 yrs to reconstruct and recommission Belknap (CG-26) after it’s collision with the USS Kennedy (CV-67) in Nov. 1975. Belknap was practically leveled above the main deck due to fire and explosions in addition to initial impact damage but there was no external damage below the waterline. It appears Fitzgerald’s damage may be as extensive but in a more crucial area (below the waterline).

      • Curtis Conway

        Hey Bill, Curt from Combat. You are absolutely right, and we were a 1,200 lb steam driven guided missile cruiser that tried to go under an angle deck. With a legacy like that, the 2nd PRECOM crew never let anyone get that close to Battlecruiser Belknap. The Fitz took a glancing but fairly square on starboard hit aligned just behind the bridge, with the greatest penetrating damage below the waterline that cannot be seen in the pictures. First photos in drydock will drop jaws with a lot of OMGs. TMA 89’s writeup below leads to the Wikipedia listing which has more information. This collision happened much closer, and much earlier than informed by the press reports. Not so ‘wide open Pacific’ in this area. Really look forward to reading the investigation findings.

        • Bill Clements

          Sounds like you may have been on board Belknap at the time of the collision. We’re you? I was there on board USS Pharris FF-1094. We worked helo ops for search and rescue until we were ordered along side Kennedy to aide in external fires.

          • Curtis Conway

            No. PRECOM #2 CIC Crew and Combat System Test Team. We were the Pre-Aegis test platform for a lot of the systems with the exception of the radar. Our configuration turned into NTU (SPS-48 ships) for most of those who followed.

            The USS Belknap cut through AVGAS lines (140 Octane) for the prop planes of the day. Those transfer paths were external to the skin under the flight deck. Dumped the fuel right down into the the uptakes into the engine room. The forward uptakes go right through CIC.

            It was my first PRECOM and one heck of an experience that makes a huge impression on ones memory. Earned by Force Track Sup ticket and our CRUDESGRU Commander pined on my ESWS pin. Then I went to PRECOM TICO. That was a bigger challenge. However, shooting an MR range missile (SM-2 Blk II) the same distance we used to shoot the ER missiles was a real kick. Being the TORCH (AIC) in STAR Control was the experience of my like.

            Sure miss the frigates out of Mayport. Those were real sailors.

          • Curt – Belknap also got the AN/SPS-49(V) radar as part of the NTU. The 49 that she was suppose to get ended up being installed on Bldg. Z-41 at Wallops Island (south end of the island) in a NTU laboratory the Navy built there. She eventually got a later production model 49. The advent of cell phone networks put the kabash to 49s operating ashore. They took out the one that was installed at CSEDS (Moorestown, NJ) sometime in the 80’s.

          • Curtis Conway

            The fleet enforced a low-power only operational policy when in the Med between Italy and France. When I went to 49 radar school, I was in class with an Australian. The Aussie FFG-7s all had 49s on them.

          • At 12 RPM in 60 mile mode (short pulse), the SPS-49 made for a passable SPN-43.

          • Frank Lentz

            That was JP-5 not AVGAS, I don’t think JFK even carried avgas at that time.

          • Curtis Conway

            Possibly. The report I got was it was AVGAS. Either way, you don’t want it going down the uptake of a steam ship.

          • Frank Lentz

            JP-5 burns longer than gas, more energy per volume than avgas.

          • Curtis Conway

            Learn from HiStory, or you are bound to repeat it.

        • LX5

          Glancing is a poor choice of words in the article as the Crystal’s ‘bulb’ seems to have hit straight on. Glancing seems to minimize the that Fitzgerald was rammed.

          • Curtis Conway

            Looks like the dog (autopilot) was driving the ship. If the bulbous bow had fully penetrated, the ships would have to have been towed apart.

          • kapena16

            Incredible what you Navy guys think. Even more incredible what you don’t know about civilian ships. THAT is a tragedy bigger than this accident. I cannot fathom some of the most incredible statements made by ‘US Navy experts” in the media, all over the internet, and on TV/Radio. As an ex-Naval Reserve Officer, ship’s officer on my 5th issue of Masters, unlimited tonnage, all ocean license, engaged as a harbor pilot for over 23 years, worked aboard numerous US Navy and foreign navy ships, I make this statement with a unique perspective, different than most. The Navy has much to learn from this experience, sadly. If nothing else, the grounding of the PORT ROYAL off Pearl Harbor and GUARDIAN on a reef in the Philippines should tell you (and everyone else) that you don’t need another ship to underscore bridge officer OOD failures. You guys did that all on your own. I truly wish the top brass would consider a wholesale review of how Navy ship bridges are manned and function.

            There was no proverbial dog on the bridge of the CRYSTAL. The Captain of the civilian ship has already made the statement that his ship was attempting to wave the Navy ship off as they closed towards each other. He was obligated by international rules to hold his course and speed until in extremis (what the rules actually require). He did turn away at the last minute, again, following what the rules require. The Navy has been caught in yet another epic fail. When will the pentagon admirals learn to make some badly needed changes?

          • Curtis Conway

            So the civilian ship was hollering over CH-16 and the destroyer ignored them? Your comment is a huge indictment of the US Navy Bridge Teams, underway OOD quals, and Surface CIC quals. Either these folks are not doing their jobs, or the manpower has been paired down to commercial craft level, and then no one is qualified. This is a huge indictment of the US Navy Surface Warfare Community, and if true a huge blight that will not be soon overcome. I guess Maneuvering Boards have gone away, and no one is functional without a computer? Sad state of affairs!!!!

          • kapena16

            I never stated Crystal Capt. was “hollerin’ on VHF”. HIS statement was that he was using a spotlight on bridge, directed towards navy ship and flashing (NOT to be confused with code) it to get the attention of the ship near him. Remember, he did not know anything about FITZ, since she had no AIS. So cargo ship Capt was confused by FITZ presence and dangerous bearing/range. My intent is not to disparage Navy bridge team. But the prima facie evidence certainly doesn’t weigh in their favor. Maybe you can explain what everyone on FITZ bridge was thinking or doing? The oceans of the world are covered by civilian cargo ships all over, usually manned by 1 person on the bridge sometimes 3. Your statement that this manning at “commercial craft level” equates to all of us being unqualified is stunning in its stupidity. It underscores AGAIN what little understanding you have of civilian ship operation, the educational and training standards for all civilian ships officers, and just exactly what we do while on watch. In fact it must really amaze you that the vast majority of civilian ships all over this planet go from point A to point B everyday, a thousand times over. That this is done most all the time with one officer on the bridge. And it is done the vast majority of the time with little if any incident.

            What’s the excuse of the men and women on the FITZ? Given their manning and expertise, how did this accident ever happen?

          • Curtis Conway

            Was a CH-16 Call made?

            Oh I am familiar with the requirements of commercial shipping on the high seas. Have friends who were Master of All-tonnage vessels, and I can tell you on more than one occasion that commercial shipping was encountered on the high seas in the Atlantic and we just maneuvered around them yielding to the Max Gross Tonnage with an early few degrees of course, or a knot or two of speed, for that occasion when the commercial ship “manned by 1 person on the bridge” was in the head. Plan for the worse and hope for the best, and you will be so much happier in the end. Better safe than sorry.

            Never did a WESTPAC, but marveled at the stories by those who were on the Bridge and in Combat when transiting any number of choke points like the Malacca Straits.

            The question in everyone/s mind today is EXACTLY as you have stated it: “what everyone on FITZ bridge was thinking or doing?” Of course this accident should not have happened. I recall when someone told me that Maneuvering Boards were no longer used aboard ship, to which I stated; what happens when the power goes out?

            The US Navy has some work to do, and I hope those who are doing that work have their heads screwed on straight. One must remember, it is the same group that built and fielded a near toothless small surface combatant (LCS), that must address this problem Navy Wide! This does not engender confidence in this old sailor. That confident and liberal mindset is more likely to just ‘cut off heads’ that actually train and develop our combat sailors.

          • kapena16

            Guess your watchstanders never go to the head for 4 hours, huh? That explains why they can’t think straight.

            I sailed as Chief Mate for 3 years on a ship running through Malacca Straits in and out of Singapore. Never mind the ship traffic, standing pirate watches on deck at night with weapons made for a pretty exhausted deck crew.

            Civilian ships all over the world have this saying;
            “When you see grey, stay away”
            We give you guys a wide berth for obvious (to us) reasons. Does USS Greenville ring a bell? That happened literally minutes away from where I work.

            Yes, I agree with you about the failed LCS program. That is a stellar example of the Pentagon mindset that oversees our floating forces. It’s this same group think and managing by committee process that does our Navy more harm than good. These people need to move on and make way for those interested in really defending our freedom and not political payback and earning high retirement points.

          • Curtis Conway

            Amen and Amen. Peace Brother.

          • Curtis Conway

            We drink coffee constantly, and it must come out. However, there is more than two or three of us on watch at any one time in any place, and between the bridge, Combat Information Center, and Signalman on watch, there should be a minimum of seven to eight individuals constantly scouring the horizon, maintaining a situational picture in their heads as to what is going on around them, can understand the term ‘Target Angle’ and what ‘points on the bow’ means, and compare notes constantly. If anyone disagrees . . . we work it out until we figure it out, and that solution is supported by evidence. With the Liberal Mindset having taken over our school systems from top to bottom for over 40 years, the scientific method, inductive and deductive reasoning no longer prevail, and way to many ;wish’ it were different and ‘will’ it to be so . . . and of course reality doesn’t change. Then they wear the consequences. Lessons of life.

          • kapena16

            “… If anyone disagrees . . . we work it out until we figure it out…”

            You just described the crux of the problem. Leadership by committee. Perhaps it “wasn’t figured out” by all parties on the bridge of the FITZ as the clock ticked on.


            On civilian ships one man or woman is making decisions by themselves. Given the navigational tools and information they have immediately at hand, using their educational training and professional experience, they make instantaneous decisions constantly throughout their watch.

            If perplexed or overloaded, they call the Master. Now you have 2 people on bridge with only 1 of them making decisions, while the other assists.

            It’s a rather simple process and environment that has been working successfully for generations of time. It is by design, not happenstance.

            Amazing isn’t it?

          • czarnajama

            Yet on aircraft, Crew Resource Management (CRM) has become the proven and accepted way to do things, which means that it’s not just one person making decisions. Surely the same principle should apply on ships, despite centuries of tradition whereby the Captain is unquestioned.

          • kapena16

            Yes, in fact BRIDGE Resource Management (BRM) is what the civilian maritime industry has learned from aviation sector. So we DO LEARN appropriate skills and protocols from this style of decision making and leadership. But there are specific occasions and instances when this process is employed. In pilotage waters is a perfect example. The addition of a harbor pilot on the bridge adds another layer of decision making. There are other times, whenever a situation arises “at sea” demanding multiple officers or a bridge team to work together fog, traffic, both in restricted navigable waters, etc) . But it is intended to supplement leadership and decision making process. Not create conflict.

            It would appear the Navy style of bridge management needs tweaking. Prima facie evidence of this is abundant, beyond this collision. Further, civilian mariners (in the USA at least) are not only trained in BRM, but required to frequently renew this training as part of promotion process. Navy OOD’s they spend nearly half their career in non/seagoing or non-bridge watchstsnding billets are obviously behind in their experience level, compared to comparable deep sea civilian mariners with respect to time spent navigating at sea. Sorry, that’s just an obvious fact.

            Given all the experience and leadership ‘capabilities’ on the FITZ at 0130 on June 17, nobody seemed to know how to simply get out of the way, regardless of fault or obligations by COLREGS. Turning away or going full astern didn’t occur to any of the 7 or 8 sea watch standers on bridge? Perhaps they did make an effort, we don’t know yet. But after all this time, we know nothing from Navy sources about what FITZ was doing or attempted to do…. or NOT do as the case may be.

          • Picky_Consumer

            I am reminded of the tragic collision in 1997 of a USAF C-141 and German Air Force Tupelov 154-M, the accident findings were that both aircraft were likely on autopilot when they collided off the west coast of Africa.

          • Curtis Conway

            That interpretation of the my sentence is a little bent. This ‘figuring out’ is taking place in a timely manner LONG before the target gets to the specified CPA notification as dictated in the Captains Standing Night Orders. The Rules of the Road are pretty strait forward. If Combat and the Bridge can’t agree on how to keep the target outside the CPA then we wake the Captain. It’s a rather simple process, and has worked for generations. Amazing isn’t it :).

          • kapena16

            “…a little bent…”


            Lets use your mindset, just to be clear. A situation has developed. You find yourself in close quarters with a ship on your starboard beam. He’s reached the CPA designated by the CO’s night orders. One of you is overtaking the other (the general allegation by many, though we don’t know who is overtaking who, do we?). Let’s just say you’re within a half mile of each other on nearly the same course.

            As OOD you are talking to the guys in CIC, your lookouts, the JOD, and you’re mulling over what to do next. You haven’t called the CO yet (he’s still in his cabin). Suddenly, it’s obvious a collision is about to happen.

            So much for the theory that “…This ‘figuring out’ is taking place in a timely manner LONG before the target gets to the specified CPA notification…” That’s your wish, not the typical reality.

            The true reality of going to sea as a bridge officer is, you don’t always have that luxury of having the time …LONG before you need to figure it out…especially here, coastwise off Japan, in a heavy traffic lane, at 0130.

            While it’s easy to declare that the Rule of the Road are pretty straight forward, the application of the Rules aren’t always that easy. If they were, we’d never have maritime accidents or close calls. We wouldn’t be having this discussion now, yes?

            We don’t know if the OOD called the CO. Even if he did, he was still in his cabin at time of the collision. So I’m assuming the OOD did not call him in a timely manner.

            You see, in your mind “…it’s a rather simple process, and has worked for generations….” But the reality is, factually, no, it hasn’t. There was some confusion on the bridge that night on both ships. THAT is why there was a collision. It isn’t that simple a process as you would like to believe.

            I get the impression you have NOT actually sailed as a OOD much, if at all. Correct me if I’m wrong.

            Here’s what we know so far:
            The FITZ didn’t have the CO on the bridge. They didn’t have their AIS transponder turned on to ID themselves, though they may have been receiving data from other ships. The cargo ship Captain has submitted a statement that did NOT declare any verbal communication between himself and the another vessel…..how could he? He had no way of identifying the FITZ, because the FITZ wasn’t transmitting any AIS data. So we assume the FITZ made no effort to call the CRYSTAL either on VHF. The cargo ship Capt declared he shined a light towards the FITZ to attract attention of the ‘mysterious ship’ on his port side that did not have an AIS on and was closing towards his own ship. Yet this action did not result in the FITZ taking evasive maneuvers in time to avoid collision.

            Yes, there are still more questions than answers.

            I’m not confident the Navy’s investigation will be as transparent as it should be. They have already refused the Japanese authorities to question any of the FITZ crew. Big mistake. Sorry, the idea that your military and you get a special pass doesn’t fit here. This isn’t about the type of ships or their missions. This is about two bridge teams making a mistake, with confusion and inevitably the finding that their was ‘human error’ that played a key role in the causation of this accident.

            Post-accident inquiries are made to decrease the likelihood the accident will happen again. But if the Navy is going to “selectively” provide sanitized information to other investigating entities, there is no hope that everyone concerned will have any confidence they are being told the entire truth about ALL the details involved leading up to the moment of collision.

          • Curtis Conway

            OK, here we go. I have stood watches as CIC surface supervisor during Condition III Steaming. Lookout Supervisor for Sea & Anchor Detail, and Trainer for all Lookouts under all circumstances (including Snoopy Team).
            I have made the run up the ladders to the bridge on more than one occasion with a Maneuvering Board in my hand, when the Growler and Sound Powered Phones just wasn’t getting us to where we needed to go. This is all with a CPA that is well outside of your situation described ( a very Proactive 5 miles). The few times we would EVER see a CPA as you describe is in shipping lanes like Gibraltar, English Channel, The Baltic and its approaches from the North Sea, and in a 4W Grid off of Beirut, ect. Most of the planned navigation we tried very hard to schedule in daylight, but not always. Able Senior Bridge crew would be scheduled, with the goal of getting every ship-handler (OOD, JOOD and Bridge Crew) up to speed as quickly as possible. I can recall more than one occasion where the Captain (on both cruisers) lost sleep based upon the dense traffic environment, and his diligence to ensure to the safety of his ship/all hands. I can also remember occasions where the captain assumed the watch from the bridge from the standing OOD for a few minutes, then he was a super coach and instructor on making sure the standing OOD understood the lesson at hand. In both PRECOM crews the OOD qualifications for all Bridge Officers was accomplished ASAP including UNREP-CONREP qualifications (and experience) was emphasized to the extent possible. I can remember pulling into Port Everglades for Spring Break weekend, and Bridge Crew did a stellar job until the Pilot took over for the direction to the pier. That was the most congested traffic I had ever experienced, other than going up the river to Annapolis . . . on the first Aegis Cruiser for the very first time.
            When I would listen to the WESTPAC veterans talk about the Staits of Malacca it was hard to relate. This is the environment of which you describe and speak.
            As for calls on Bridge-to-Bridge . . . the capability exists . . . why?! As for communicating on the frequency to someone unknown to you . . . from channel 19 on the roadway, to channel 16 on the water, the VHF exist for a reason, and the range capability is ‘not that far’ (usually line-of-sight), so if you hear a call . . . the ship is CLOSE, and MAX Gross Weight Tonnage vessels USUALLY are easy to determine/see (particularly through the big eyes), even in the wee hours of the morning on radar and visually in the dark (that is why we have regulation required navigation lights), and transmissions made in the blue (“Container ship on by Starboard Beam…”). Now if the Bridge Crew has NO IDEA what ‘Target Angle’ is, or can appreciate ‘points on either side of the bow’, what ‘Bearing Drift’ means, or requesting constant reports on specific targets when this or that changes, then I begin to wonder about the qualifications of the Bridge Crew regardless of the environment.
            The OOD simply must have a situational awareness, and maintain a close monitoring of any potential threat to the ship. Radar automation and software can never assume responsibility for the ‘Safety of all hands’. Human beings must do that.
            In the initial comments I made the first day, the general understanding was this happened on the high seas of the Pacific. Then the details started coming out about dense shipping lanes and their immediate proximity. Acclimation to one’s environment is one of the reasons we have ships and crews that consistently operate in that same region, developing a HiStorical experience (I was a MED/Atlantic/Caribbean Sailor predominantly when specifically involved with shipboard navigation operations).
            As for the quote: “…it’s a rather simple process, and has worked for generations….”, you DO realize I was echoing YOUR Quote, and perhaps placed ‘too much’ credence in its applicability.

            Hopefully, the [entire] US Navy learns something from this incident and we preemptively avoid similar events in the future. You see in the MED we have Russians who place themselves in position to use the Rules of the Road so they can force you to give way and make the Bird Farm vulnerable to their approach. I suspect you experience similar things in Pacific.

            I’m with you on the transparency argument, and the US Navy usually is (with time) in these instances. Vigilance on the Bridge, and in Combat is required, and with so many eyes looking at this same situation, maintaining ‘the bubble’, I can hardly understand how this can happen. The investigation will no doubt discover the string of assumptions, and lack of action, that led to this failure to safeguard our sailors on a US Navy Man-o-War in friendly waters, and I echo your sentiment that we do everything to prevent this from every happening again.

            Qualifications must increase for OOD, JOOD, Bridge Watch Team, CIC Surface Watch Team, Lookouts, did I miss anyone? We would have the Gunners Mates exercising their EO (and today should include IR). This is one of the reasons I would like to see future (and current ) CICs utilize PASSIVE systems during all operations, and maintain a very robust visual, and EO/IR picture of situational awareness. Large Screen Displays should be in every major main space, particularly “O” spaces (Captain’s Cabin, Flag Spaces, even Mess Decks) that show the current surface picture, and perhaps an EO/IR picture of the nearest surface traffic.

          • kapena16

            That was a voluminous response. The short version/answer to my question is, it sounds like you have not been a qualified Officer of the Deck in charge of the navigation bridge on a surface ship. So be it.

            A single tool that has been in place several years now that has made a monumental positive difference in the safe navigation of ALL ships at sea is the Automatic Identity System (AIS) Transponder. Its proper use has removed the necessity to call out on VHF 16 that familiar and desperate sound “Vessel on my port bow, this is the vessel on your starboard bow, Come in!” You’ve just grabbed the attention of probably a dozen ships within 20 miles of you, in a ridiculous effort to avoid a collision. It is likely you have established contact with someone you didn’t intend to and now have set up another vessel for a close call. Or a collision.

            THIS is why the Captain of the CRYSTAL was shining his light towards the FITZ. An attempt to hail on VHF 16 a vessel that should be giving way, is a last ditch desperate measure.

            However, when done with the definitive information gleaned from using the AIS and being able to call out a ship by her specific name, it certainly makes hailing one another on VHF 16 a completely different effort.

            The Captain of the ACX CRYSTAL did not have that luxury, since the FITZ chose to leave her AIS transmitter turned off. Like most Navy ships.

            However….the FITZ bridge team likely knew and was monitoring the movements of the CRYSTAL (since so many other navy folks have already told us in numerous commentaries all over the internet) on an AIS screen on her bridge. The Navy chooses to use the AIS system to see others, but NOT reveal her own presence.

            I find it fascinating that the US Navy leadership condones this practice of selective use of the AIS system, under the circumstances that confronted the FITZ that night. In other words, its good for the Navy to receive knowledge that helps Navy ships as the Navy deems fit to do so. But is is a bad policy to allow civilian ships around US Navy ships to have information gained from an AIS signal that may help in safe navigation and collision avoidance.


            The loss of 7 great American sailors, while they slept, is a tragic waste, given the otherwise peaceful, routine transit their ship was on as they headed back to port at Yokosuka. To be clear, there was no military activity happening at the time of the collision, to warrant the FITZ traveling in ‘stealth mode’. I mean really, do you guys genuinely believe turning your AIS off is really going to prevent the Chinese, Russians, and NORKOS from monitoring your ship’s activities???? Never mind the satellites spying from overhead or the fishermen in boats anchored off Yokosuka Harbor watching the daily arrivals and departures in broad daylight. Its incredulous the Navy still thinks this is an effective method of cloaking your ship’s movements.

            I cannot help but wonder if the FITZ had been transmitting some basic data on her AIS…her name, course, and speed… that the officer on watch aboard the CRYSTAL could have routinely called her out on VHF 16 and inquired about her intentions and come to a mutual agreement for safe passage. We wouldn’t have seen a collision, we wouldn’t be discussing the matter. The navy ship and the cargo ship would have passed like thousands of others that early morning. Free and clear by each other.

            But that didn’t happen.

            What will the US Navy’s Admiral’s staff conclude in an honest ‘lessons learned’ review here?

          • Curtis Conway

            Touche, I am not and have never been a qualified Bridge Officer. I retired as a CWO who served as a Black Shoe on steam and gas turbine guided missile cruisers, before I turned into a Brown Shoe and served on Staff Units on ships, and shore based facilities. I ended my career after standing Asst Watch Officer in more Command Centers in all kinds of places underway and otherwise, and I can tell you, the most disturbing thing about every comment you have made is an almost total reliance of technology. Seamanship, and what it takes to keep a ship safe underway has not changed since ancient times. Situational Awareness is EVERYTHING. If you can’t handle the bubble on the Bridge (or CIC, TFCC, MOCC, ASWOC, The ROCC, etc.) you do not belong there. Technology really helps, and can make that job much easier, but assuming the responsibility for the ‘Safety of all hands’ will NEVER be assumed by equipment, and the day our soldiers, sailors, airman, and Marines start thinking so, is the beginning of the end.

          • kapena16

            Yep, I thought so.

            You have misinterpreted my basic premise. My position is that the Navy should be using all available means for collision avoidance in the same way and method that all other seafarers around the world are. Thats it. To avail themselves of info from a magic box that helps them avoid collision, but not provide that same info to others around them….to me at least, is a criminal act. There are 7 families out there that may have something more to say about that later.

            My career at sea has spanned 40 years this month. I have sailed more years ‘without’ that technology that you speak of, than I have sailed with it. AIS is relatively new. Most of my years sailing deep sea have been with the very basic Magnavox Sat-Nav, which was about the size of a microwave oven. Near the equator, it was several hours between good fixes. I worked aboard a NOAA ship that was ‘testing’ a future GPS system. I spent most of my deep sea watches sailing around the world using my own Tamaya 3/4 size sextant that I always carried with me, along with my seabag. I took great pride in my ability (at the time) to nail down accurate star fixes and noon sights routinely, weather permitting. You are preaching to the wrong choir.

            The sector of civilian maritime industry I am employed in today, being a harbor pilot, has faced a new challenge in recent years. Many of us, but not all, have been using PPU’s (Portable Pilot Units). It is in effect a mini ECDIS system we bring aboard a ship with us, customized to our needs, used to help supplement our learned skills from senior mentor pilots. It is essentially an iPad, and a small box, I carry it all in my backpack.

            To be absolutely clear, every pilot will tell you the magic boxes should never replace your learned organic skills of navigation and ship handling. On any ship. But it is the industry and regulators that DEMAND we stay current and utilize ‘every available means of safe navigation’ in our efforts to ensure a ship makes her transit during her most vulnerable part of the entire voyage. Turning a 1,200′ long ship around within a basin that has barely 1,400′ of safe water around it, is a challenge. The information we have available from a PPU while routinely conducting such maneuvers (in fog, high winds, rain, etc) supplements our organic skills, it does NOT replace them.

            Technology has helped our industry move more cargo, more efficiently, and over all, much safer in recent years than we did even 25 years ago. Sailing today is different than it was 25 years ago. I wonder what it will be like in 25 more years?

            My last few words. I sailed aboard Navy ships as a Reservist. I STILL sail aboard Navy and Coast Guard ships as a Pilot. I genuinely share the same belief as many others do in the civilian maritime industry. Especially by those, like me, that have real experience aboard BOTH Navy and civilian ships. There is room for improvement on the bridge of Navy ships, with respect to procedures and watch standing policies. I get the purists and traditionalists and the refusal to … in their minds …. not to fix what ain’t broken. But if you don’t know anything beyond what you have learned only on a Navy ship, you’ll never learn anything about ‘improving’ your own abilities and capacity to perform even better than you already do.

            The collision of the USS FITZGERALD and ACX CRYSTAL is a teachable moment in our contemporary maritime history. If the US Navy Admirals do not stop (soon) and take a wholesale look and concomitant review of what they are doing, we are likely doomed to see it happen again. That would be an even greater tragedy than the loss of the 7 sailors already gone, from the FITZ.

            This was not an isolated incident on the whole. The recent incredible and embarrassing groundings of the PORT ROYAL and the GUARDIAN suggest there is something fundamentally wrong going on here. I truly hope I am absolutely wrong. But …. “if we don’t change a thing, nothing will change.” And with that said, another horrific collision is inevitable.

          • Curtis Conway

            Well, my apologies. We are in agreement.

        • jack anderson

          but Belknap had an SPN-10? And was it radiating? As QMOW I hated stationkeeping in EMCON! Even without getting run over no one liked rockets from some staffer at CBG telling us to get on station! Does today’s Navy still use a stadimeter? Would have been of limited use to the Fitzgerald without knowing the height of the truck light though.

          • Curtis Conway

            We had an AN/SPS-10 as did most of the fleet. Big eyes and shooting bearings should have been going on too.

          • jack anderson

            messed up the description, has been over 40 years!

        • FlyNavy


          Thank you for your service.

          In your opinion, what do you think happened on the Fitzgerald that allowed this to happen?

          Thank you for your time.

          • Curtis Conway

            I wanted to add expand on my comments this morning and this was my first opportunity to do that.

            My first comment about this incident jumps out at anyone who has been involved with executing a PIM with an SOA. What did the Captains Standing Night Orders say? Given it was the traditional Standing Orders concerning things in traffic and navigation, was this followed? The investigation will tell. At this point I’m beginning to wonder if the US Navy monitors VHF CH-16 at all, and I’m wondering about the qualifications of the Bridge Watch across the board. In the USS Belknap (CG-26) collision, and many other instances, the CIC team had warned the Bridge, and the Bridge ignored the warnings. Situational Awareness? So what does that indicate? Lack of/breakdown in communication, and the loss of trust & team builds between the Bridge and Combat. This ship could not survive combat with that kind of team, if one can call it that. There must be an absolute trust between the CIC-Bridge Team in this equation, or things will not work. There were some fundamentals that should be in question at this point in the investigation, with many variables and aspects that would seem to indicate the answer, but do not support the resulting actions. The Captain trusted his team. Did they deserve that trust?

          • jack anderson

            I talk to Navy in Norfolk all the time on 16, they definitely monitor.

    • Philip Palmer

      You don’t know squat. Stop guessing and trying to make its sound like you know something because those that do know you’re full of crap, so shut your pie hole. Let investigation run its course and the truth will come out.

      • MarlineSpikeMate

        I’m afraid you will be disappointed in the findings of the investigation, if history tells us anything..

        • Philip Palmer

          I wouldn’t say disappointed. If the investigation finds fault with the Fitzgerald’s crew so be it. Its up to the investigators to figure it out, not a bunch armchair quarterbacks and tin foil hat theorists who weren’t even in the same hemisphere, have never served on a Naval vessel, and are only interested in being the first to point fingers without any regard for what laying false blame on the crew does to moral when they are dealing with the loss of their shipmates.

          • MarlineSpikeMate

            Right, I guess my problem is saying someone doesn’t know “squat” “shut your pie hole” and that they are “full of crap”. We have some facts, and people will speculate. Some folks have immense knowledge in the maritime world in the merchant marines and navy and can bring more than speculation. Other do not. Many things he pointed out are merely facts.

          • Philip Palmer

            I should have he doesn’t know squat about the situation. But he doesn’t know basic watchstanding procedure The CO isn’t called to the bridge in most passing situations. He has repeaters in cabin. The OOD calls him and informs him of the situation and the CO either decides to go to the bridge, gives steering orders or agrees with the OODs recommendations over the phone. The bulk of the long range radio equipment is located in one room to ensure security of the encryption equipment. Short range marine radios are located on the bridge along with the chartroom, CIC, and the CO’s cabin. The ship was not complete silent as he claims, just no long range encrypted equipment. John Walker (the spy) made that happen. At 0200, with no moon or artificial lighting, it is entirely possible to not see another ship if the Crystal did not all or some of have her navigation lights on. Does Topknife no that they did? Nope. And according to him, the Fitzgerald should have just been able to maneuver out of the way. Yeah? What about the Crystal and her maneuvers? Do we know if the Fitzgerald communicated with the Crystal, exchanged their planned passing intentions, then one ship failed to execute? Nope. There are three surface capable radars on board. Do we know if one or more had failed at a critical time? Nope. Its possible. I have seen it happen. The fact is there are far too many variables to be spitballing from under a tin foil hat. If he loves the Navy so much, then how about he show some respect for those shipmates we lost, their families, and the those left on the ship wondering if they were some how to blame.

          • MarlineSpikeMate

            “The CO isn’t called to the bridge in most passing situations. He has repeaters in cabin. The OOD calls him and informs him of the situation and the CO either decides to go to the bridge, gives steering orders or agrees with the OODs recommendations over the phone.”
            – Sure, but almost all standing orders say to CALL ME or pass the word over the 1MC to have me come to the bridge for many situations. Close CPAs are certainly one. The large merchant would be obvious on radar, arpa, and ais. Also merchants never would dream of running without lights for risk of being fined and fired.
            -The naval vessel may however been running without lights. ALSO it WAS running without AIS, and appears as a small contact on X and S band radars due to its design. There is no argument that the naval vessel, with CIC and the many watch-standers on the bridge had a much better chance of seeing the Crystal than the Crystal did at seeing her.

            My last point it exonerating the naval vessel and blindly trying to discredit some serious concerns is highly disrespectful of the men who lost there lives.

          • Philip Palmer

            Either way, you don’t know for sure. Which makes all this supposition by anyone irresponsible of what is happening in Yokosuka and what the rest of the crew is going through. I obviously have more respect for the dead, their families and the rest of the crew than anyone posting half-assed theories pushing blame with only part of the information. Once the tracks and timeline is resolved then, if there is blame to laid, then those who are fault should stand on the blue carpet. No arguments there.

          • MarlineSpikeMate

            Yes, there will be blame on both sides, as in every maritime law collision case.

          • Jim Sites

            Phillip – A comment section is intended to allow readers to comment and speculate. If reading such speculation causes you so much distress, perhaps you should stop reading.

          • Topnife

            Thanks for your criticism of my comments. I realize there are many details that remain to be revealed by investigation, but I would also suggest that the watch on the bridge is charged with avoiding any collisions, even in a crowded shipping lane, and that the mere fact of a major collision implies that somebody had a serious lapse in performance, that led to the death of 7 shipmates who were depending on them for their safety.
            The moon was at its third quarter, and the weather is reported as clear. Perhaps you can explain how the bridge watch could have been unaware of a 40,000 ton behemoth, even if without running lights in a busy shipping lane, until it actually impacted them. There has been no mention of a collision alarm being sounded, and that takes just seconds.
            I’ll grant that I may have less experience than you do. On the other hand, for some people, experience is doing the same thing wrong, time after time. We’re supposed to learn from experience, and how to avoid a collision is something that competent sailors have learned well, long ago.

          • Philip Palmer

            If you really love the Navy and have respect for those who serve, you’d quit spinning conjecture laced with blame and wait for the investigation to conclude. Trying to justify your insensitivity with more conjecture and blame just makes you look foolish, not informed.

          • Topnife

            I’m just sitting in my recliner in CA, and what I decide will not have any effect on the outcome. I enjoyed my time and experience in the Navy, and I hate to see anything happen that suggests somebody was less than squared away. I think you can at least agree that the bridge watch did not fulfill their fundamental obligation to safely operate the ship, even if attacked.
            You can sit back and wait for the Navy to report its investigation, that will without a doubt, and probably justly cost those aboard ship their careers, but will likely determine that more senior persons were not in any way responsible. I suffer from a more activist state-of-mind.

          • Philip Palmer

            I know what the investigations usually find but I won’t make any assumptions and certainly wouldn’t publish them. I have no desire to try and influence public opinion against shipmates.

      • Pacemaker4

        first time on the internet?

    • Gen. Buck Turgidson

      It happened to my army,,

    • Hugh

      Visibly bent or designed sheer? Alignment checks will determine what are the actual deflections. Battle or other major damage should be repairable in a competent shipyard, and certainly would be a political imperative.

    • Johnny G.

      I quite agree with your estimation of events concerning this tragic collision. Aegis radar touts 360 degree coverage. During normal Ops. “situational awareness” should not be a problem underway. During ANY closing or confrontational situation, the CO must be informed as per SOP. So, what happened?? The other ship had it’s own points of interest in that it’s bridge probably was not manned or had incompetent personnel on watch.

      • Rexford L

        Aegis isn’t a “radar” but it’s the entire combat systems, which includes the SPY-1D, the Mk-41 VLS, the various types of computers (from legacy SPS-43 mainframe computers to the modern blade servers on new (or refurbished) Burkes.

        • SPY-1D is a long range air search radar, and while it does possess some surface search capacity (horizon search), ACX Crystal would have been well within the minimum range of the radar for several minutes before the collision. The most appropriate radars for detecting the ACX Crystal would have been the SPS-67 and/or the SPQ-9B. Numerous surface contacts and sea clutter would have served to complicate the radar picture.

          P.S. Rex – I think that you mean UYK-43 computers.

        • Discriminator

          UYK-43 but you knew that…

      • Darrell

        let the investigation play out and answer those and other questions.

      • Topnife

        I think you’ve got the pic right, as far as we know now.
        Surely the bridge had a navigational radar repeater available, and if CIC was operating, they would have been continually updating CPA for a close contact. Not to mention direct visual by the lookouts and the bridge.

      • kapena16

        You’re a fool to make such a comment with no grounds or evidence to know this was the case. Cultivating the idea that civilian ships run around in a high density ship traffic area off the coast of Japan at night like a bunch of mindless robots all by themselves is utter BS and you should know better than to make such a claim. I don’t care how many years in the Navy you MAY have served, even if on the bridge, even if you were qualified OOD. To think this was the case is utter nonsense and you owe a lot more respect to civilian licensed watch standing officers everywhere. News reports today confirm that Captain of the cargo ship says they were attempting to signal and warm the navy ship off. The Navy ship is at fault. Deal with that reality.

        • FlyNavy

          You, sir, need to be more respectful.

          No one involved in this discussion has any problem laying blame on the crew of the USS Fitzgerald. No one is trying to blame the crew of the ACX Crystal.

          This is a discussion of the facts as we know them, amongst experienced mariners. From portions of your comments, I would assume you possess knowledge & experience that’s quite useful to this discussion.

          Taking your comments to the level of ad hominem…is unacceptable.

          • kapena16

            There has been ample commentary less than “respectful” thrown at the crew of the Crystal and civilian mariners. Intended or not, there it is.

            This discussion, contrary to your statement, includes voluminous speculation, not just “facts as we know them”

            If I’ve offended you, you have my apologies.

            But that doesn’t change the discussion at hand.

        • WhyCan’tHumansSeeReason?

          You do realize that his comment was questioning the Fitzgerald and the Crystal, right? I’ll provide an explanation for you, if it’s needed.

          “I quite agree with your estimation of events concerning this tragic collision.”
          Yes, this does support the previous comment. However, the previous comment also questioned the Fitzgerald as well.

          “Aegis radar touts 360 degree coverage. During normal Ops. “situational awareness” should not be a problem underway.”
          He is questioning how the Fitzgerald did not see the ship approaching before the collision. The 360 degree radar should have detected an incoming ship, especially one the size of the Crystal.

          “During ANY closing or confrontational situation, the CO must be informed as per SOP. So, what happened??”
          Once again, the Fitzgerald is questioned. Short of the Aegis radar not working properly, the crew should have notified the CO. (In my opinion, there may be something more to the situation, as the CO was near the bridge before the collision).

          “The other ship had it’s own points of interest in that it’s bridge probably was not manned or had incompetent personnel on watch.”
          This is indeed questioning the Crystal. However, he doesn’t go into detail as he does with the Fitzgerald. He most likely does not know the proper operation of the Crystal, so he assumes they have some fault as well.

          Also, you can’t guarantee that there is always a “right” and “wrong” party in a situation. Typically both parties have at least some fault in a conflict.

          • kapena16

            Thanks for your effort to monitor everyone’s comments and keep us all squared away….

            I’m not trying to “guarantee” there is a right and wrong here. In an Admiralty Court decision there would likely be a ‘percentage’ of blame placed upon each vessel for the purposes of adjudicating the amounts of money owed by each party (paid by insurance) to owners of the ship(s) and cargo. It is also common to place a higher percentage of blame upon the vessel found to have done more wrong than the other. Very basic explanation here: in this incident, assume for a moment the FITZ would be found to have failed to maneuver out of the way as the COLREGS require FIRST, then she may be found to be 80% at fault. Then a court would include a 20% judgement against the CRYSTAL since the vessel also did not maneuver to avoid collision, as she became ‘in extremis’ and therefore still involved in a collision. It can be complicated and be a prolonged process and nobody likes it. But t is what it is.

            Secondly, I’ve long since been offended by those (and there are many of them) that make the general claim that the CRYSTAL’s bridge was unmanned or crew was all asleep and the ship was on iron mike or autopilot.

            This commentary follows with the presumption that…”This is a discussion of the facts as we know them, amongst experienced mariners….”


            We don’t know the all facts… yet. We don’t know squat about the activities aboard the FITZ because the Navy is keeping a tight clamp on their information. We already do know the “statement of facts” made by the vessel Master of the CRYSTAL and, in spite of his recorded statement and his AIS track details and general info the Japanese authorities have released, there are still those who allege the CRYSTAL crew was asleep.

            This allegation is based on pure speculation by (mostly) non-bridge watch standing deck officer qualified
            individuals who have (likely) zero experience aboard civilian cargo ships. Especially in this area of operation.

            It’s no surprise that commentary on this board leans heavily towards defending the FITZ and laying blame on the CRYSTAL and using the autopilot and being asleep as the primary cause of the collision and burden placed on CRYSTAL crew. No surprise.

            Other boards that are found on primarily civilian maritime industry websites and publications, readers weigh in the opposite direction, blaming the Navy. This would be expected as many (most) of those comments are from mariners with personal experiences at sea with situations involving their own ships and navy ships. So their thought process is obvious.

            Last word…the Navy needs to seriously review their policy of using AIS transponders. The idea that you are ‘cloaking’ your own ship and hiding it from foreign bad guys by simply turning off your AIS (transmit mode), but still using the info gained from it to assist your own bridge team…that thinking is criminal. The families of dead sailors should be looking at this if for no other reason to persuade the Admirals to rethink this policy. I’m not advocating lawsuits and money. I’m an advocate of prevention of real stupid thinking.

            Foreign entities monitor ship movement by simply anchoring their fishing boats outside Yokosuka and watching you guys come and go in broad daylight. Then , technology takes over and satellites overhead of places like Norfolk, Pearl Harbor, and elsewhere are keeping tabs on where you are and what you are doing. We do it. I assume they do it, too.

            Transmitting a basic name (you could use an “alias name” even!) and speed and course (nothing else) would be far better than running around at night (and reduced visibility by day) with no ID to assist other ships that see you, in collision avoidance.

            If nothing else, the collision of the FITZ and the CRYSTAL should prove that point. Seven dead US sailors underscore the importance of changing this ludicrous policy by Navy command.

          • Discriminator

            Kapena16 –lot of good points. I agree almost totally, especially wrt putting up an “alias” ID on AIS, and ALSO allowing it to be changed on the fly (to prevent potential enemies from tracking you as soon as leaving port).

            Don’t know if AIS has CPA alerts or not, but seems like that should be a feature too, to keep Iron Mike from making an ill-advised turn directly into the path of another ship, as apparently happened here. But even so, the Fitz knew or should’ve known that they were in the vicinity of a possible waypoint turn for the Crystal and should’ve jumped on Ch 13 to confirm intentions, or either slowed or sped up to get separation.

            Both ships were burdened to proactively take actions long before the collision.

          • jackschmidt

            Where were the lookouts on both ships? Why weren’t the ood and mate on watch taking visual bearings on the other ship.? The best way to determine risk of collision is by bearing drift. This is elementary watchstanding.

    • Zero

      The captain was in his state room not his at sea cabin which most COs don’t use unless a superior officer is on board. If his at sea cabin behind the bridge was hit the damage would be a lot higher and on the port side.

      • Lance Lee

        This is what I don’t get. In 6 years at sea I never saw a CO sleep in his in port stateroom at sea.

        • Zero

          Of the three COs I had on my DDG all of them used their in port state room unless there was a senior officer on board who was not laid back enough to just take the at sea cabin. Its such a small detour on a DDG that it makes little difference. It might be different on big decks but small ships with the COs state room very close its not to common.

          • Lance Lee

            That makes sense. All three of my ships stateroom was far away.

          • Zero

            Yeah likely a few decks down and whatnot? On a DDG its one ladder down and a single non water tight door away, adds about 10-15 seconds of travel time but its much less noisy as there is no water tight door a few feet away.

          • Lance Lee

            The really odd setup was USS Horne, where the XOs stateroom was separate from all the rest. He was all by himself.

        • Tom Wood

          Never had a skipper use anything but sea cabin when underway at night. Not that it is crucial, but it was with four stripe skippers I served with.

      • Philip Palmer

        There is only one CO’s stateroom on Arleigh Burke destroyers. Its one deck below the bridge, starboard side, and right where the Crystal impacted. There are pictures out of the damage to the COs cabin.

        • Zero

          I served on a Burke and I can assure you that while there is only one CO Stateroom he or she also has a at sea cabin right behind the pilot house on the port side.

          • Rexford L

            Ditto.. (the CO’s at sea cabin is rather small as well) and the CO’s stateroom is actually 3 rooms, the office, his head and his bedroom.

    • Niki Ptt

      “That ship looks “bent”. The damage extended virtually to the keel, and
      a 40,000 ton ship rode up over it and bore down. Have a look at the
      pix: the line of the hull is visibly bent. Scratch one DDG.”
      The line of the hull is visibly bent because it normally is. Instead of being designed with a classic curved sheer, she was built with a “break” in her deck line fore of the superstructure.

      • Topnife

        Could be, but pix of the Fitz before the collision show a slightly different and more gracefully continuous line of the hull. Afterward, there is a break in that line at the site of the collision.
        If this collision had occurred at a greater (90 degree) angle, the Fitz would likely have been cut in half, and certainly would have been bent.

    • @USS_Fallujah

      That’s a lot of “Facts not in Evidence”
      It’s important to note, that even if the CY Crystal was “at fault” the DDG CO/XO/OOD are all still at fault (and their careers are over) because Navy ships are not allowed to be rammed by other ships, whether by accident or by intent.
      That said the key piece of info for the CY Crystal is what was the angle of approach prior to the collision, if it was less than 22.5 degrees then they were the overtaking vessel and obligated to keep clear, if over 22.5 degrees it was a crossing and the DDG was to give way. Unless you know that data point (and since the DDG wasn’t using AIS – which is a whole different ball of wax that might sink some Flag Officer’s careers).
      I’ve also heard the Crystal was on Iron Mike (autopilot) at the time of the collision, which given the proximity to shipping lanes was likely against company regulations, so that’s a few more careers down the drain.
      This is bad all around, much respect for the crew on damage control and god hold the souls of the 7 lost sailors.

      • Topnife

        One report this AM (Washington Free Beacon) has the cargo ship on autopilot and its crew in the rack. If so, rules-of-the-road become moot. Also, if the Fitz was faster than the cargo ship, she could still have been overtaking. If slower, courses will be determinant.
        As you say, the bridge watch are goners, regardless of the findings. I still don’t understand how lookouts and bridge watch could not see a bulky cargo ship under a 3/4 moon and in reportedly clear weather. Fog would change that, but even in fog, visibility is usually good enough to react and sound the collision alarms. And then there would be navigational radar.

        • You appear to conclude that the Cristal’s crew was sleeping because the autopilot was on. Most merchant ships use the autopilot to steer in open water all the time while the two man watch attends to other duties like lookout and navigation. Nothing unusual about the autopilot being on.

          • Topnife

            I recounted the article. If there was a bridge watch on the Crystal, wouldn’t they have taken action too, to avoid a collision, or to give warning before impact? The fact of a collision implies a lack of professionalism, probably by both parties.

          • I’m not making a judgement about the accident. Just suggesting too much meaning is being assigned to the autopilot if you or anyone decides the Crystal is automatically guilty because it was on.

          • Denny in Dayton

            The analysis by some of the Crystals AIS is why they say the bridge was empty or someone was asleep. The AIS shows at what would be the time collision the Crystal briefly slowed, veered to starboard, then back to port then accelerated and resumed base coarse. That would have been it striking the Fitzgerald, bouncing off or breaking free. The key is the Crystal continued for over 15 minutes on that base course after the collision before presumably someone got up and started trying to figure out what happened.

            If true that’s a serious violation. But that said the DDG had an obligation to avoid that accident and should have been able to. It’s a cow running into a deer, shouldn’t happen.

          • We sometimes have to ask ships to make a round turn before coming up for a pilot. If it’s a big ship it’ll be about an hour before they’re back up to the pilot station given time to speed up, turn, and slow back down again. (Edit) And they aren’t dealing with investigating the effects of a collision in the middle of the night either.

          • kapena16

            Post collision onboard the cargo ship, with only 20 man crew, trying to assess their own damage, water egress forward, extent of their own damage, engine automation maintaining control until engineers could manually override, navigating ‘still’ around other ships who have no idea of your condition, still having to deal with other ship traffic and fishing boats …… there was so much happening that most non-mariners simply had no clue of….as well as many USNavy ‘experts” (just ask them), iii it is amazing to me how people think time stops and that the ships (both of them) are operating in a bubble all by themselves. The cargo ship didn’t run away, once the Captain had a handle on his own ships condition and assessed his ability to maneuver back safely to navy ship and render aid, he did just that.

            Why on earth do people think the guy would have done anything else??????

          • carbonUnit

            I don’t know…. Stopping seems like a good thing to do instead of letting the ship plow on at pretty much previous speed in a now unknown condition. That’s an adjustment of throttles by the bridge crew, right? Would there be a good reason not to stop?

          • kapena16

            1) currents there are strong, 3+ knots is the norm. Stopping engine doesn’t mean stopping ship
            2) other ships around you. Nobody expects a ship to “stop” for no reason. Might upset the guy behind you eh? Think of driving down the freeway and the guy ahead of you stops his car. Same thing.
            3) drifting creates different problems. Now you crash into other fishing boats nearby
            4) capt of cargo ship knew he was obligated to return to scene of accident. And that’s just what he did once he assessed his own situation

          • kapena16

            Absolutely correct.

          • Steve

            Off the coast of Port Hueneme, CA crossing the Santa Barbara Shipping lanes, we were towing a LSD and thought we had an agreement to cross the shipping lanes with a North bound ship but there was a Super Tanker between us, we tried to reach the Tanker on Channel 16 with no response then we tried with flashing light no response, next we hit their bridge with our 24″ search light and it was empty no response, we sounded collision at 3am and hard Turn to port lucky the LSD we were towing followed for the first time and it missed the Super Tanker by a few yards, still no response. The next nite the super tanker had a collision off San Francisco still traveling at 22 knots. So don’t even tell me the empty bridge on commercial vessels doesn’t happen!
            Another incident happened off Point Mugu, CA a Super Tanker witch had gone to the off load Boey at PT Mugu which was in our patrol area was getting ready to get underway, the information was past to my OOD relief and I went to mid-rats, after I ate I had a gut feeling and went back to the bridge. The Conning Officer and my relief where getting ready to come to port to 000 and go between two mast head lights to stay in our assigned patrol area, it was 0100 hrs and a moonless night, I checked the radar and determined the the Tanker was less then 500 yards from us underway and the two mast head lights were actually her for and aft mast lights. So to put a point on it anything can happen and visuals are in the beholders understanding that may or may not be correct, always double check everything, don’t ASSUME!!!

          • kapena16

            Great sea story. The name of the “supertanker” traveling 22 knots was what? My God, the fastest tanker on planet earth. I’d love too ow who that was.

            The part about the OOD steering between 2 white lights, (radar observation and fixes to confirm it was a ship or whatever they thought it was??), now THAT kind of stupidity is believable.

            Have a great day

          • Topnife

            OK, the operation of the autopilot does not automatically implicate the Crystal “watch” as being oblivious. The right-of-way issue would not conclusively impicate blame to either party.
            This AM, there is a report that the Fitz bore on, on a collision course, despite signalling from the Crystal bridge! That places the burden on Fitz, regardless of whether her course was less than 22.5 degrees to the Crystal. Hopefully, there was bridge-to-bridge comms as well, even if in tagalog.
            This AM, there are reports that Fitz failed to respond to warning signals from the Crystal bridge! That is a major UhOh! even if the Fitz believed she was the stand-on vessel, which relies on her course being less than 22.5 degrees of the Crystal. A vessel must never collide, while just defending her right-of-way, which applies especially to the sailors asleep in their bunks, until the cold water woke them up!
            PLEASE let’s hope that the OD was not relying on rules-of-the-road as a justification of holding a collision heading, but I’m getting nervous….

          • kapena16

            Cargo ship did turn away…after they found themselves “in extremis” which is what the international law requires. Rules are that you hold your course and speed until last minute then you turn away. Cargo ship did right. Navy ship blew it.

          • Topnife

            Indeed, the autopilot being on does not mean nobody was on the bridge, but following the collision, the course changes and their duration suggest that the autopilot was trying to solve a problem that it was not designed for, without human assistance. It took over 30 minutes for the Crystal to come about to search for an explanation of what had happened.
            Nobody from the Crystal is likely to ever admit it, so that part of the story will probably never be told. Conventional wisdom amongst the ODs on my Navy ship was that commercial ship pilothouses were usually unmanned late at night, and it was fun, often to watch two radar pips merge into one, although we never heard any distress calls, so they obviously missed each other in the end.
            This whole discussion has been a welcome relief from the tragedy, and has smoked out a lot of ancient mariners to boot. Good thinking!

          • kapena16

            You don’t know what you don’t know. This didn’t happen in a bubble. There were other ships around and fishing boats. Before cargo ship can turn around, directly at other ships nearby in same flow of traffic, they had to ensure it was safe to do so. THEY JUST HAD A COLLISION!!! Didn’t want to have another one. They obviously had to wait to ensure the next maneuver would be done without creating another dangerous crossing situation. In addition, the engine on a civilian ship does not operate like your car. It must be decreased in speed slowly and this is usually accomplished by the engineers in the engine room, not from bridge. While changes can be done in an emergency, bridge officer can cause damage to engine if procedures not followed carefully. The track, course, and speed of CRYSTAL after the collision does not surprise me at all and is wholly expected by civilian mariners who understand atmosphere on bridge of ship post collision .

          • Mongo

            “Conventional wisdom amongst the ODs on my Navy ship was that commercial ship pilothouses were usually unmanned late at night, and it was fun, often to watch two radar pips merge into one, although we never heard any distress calls, so they obviously missed each other in the end.”

            In some 13 years sailing (engineer), first commercially with AMO, then military with MSC, I’ve never seen a bridge unmanned underway on a merchant ship. This with the typical two man watch (Mate and AB).

          • Topnife

            As I am sure you are aware, there are vast differences in the quality and diligence of different crews, from different origins.

          • kapena16

            YES! YES! YES! Civilians and non mariners get this, know this, understand this. Even navy self proclaimed experts don’t understand this. How cluelesss they are!

        • kapena16

          Utter BS to anyone to believe civilian mariners were asleep. Total and incredulous statements. Stop making this allegation. Its simply not true and we already know it is false.

          • Topnife

            It may be false, it may be true. I recall many times on the bridge of my Navy ship, watching the radar pips of commercial ships approach and then join with one another. I admit, I never saw a big “bang” at the site of the radar “collision”. I know they never got within 10 miles of my Navy ship.

          • kapena16

            Guess the bridge team on the Guardian were asleep (all of them) when they went aground? Oh, wait, maybe that was the Port Royal?

        • @USS_Fallujah

          Regardless of what the Crystal was doing (or not) from the USN point of view this should never happen, Cargo ships aren’t allowed to ram into our ship, even if this was deliberate (it wasn’t) the Fitz should have been able to maneuver clear, so blame, regardless of what the determination is (and some blame will doubtlessly fall on the Crystal’s crew), the Fitz leadership are goners.

          • Topnife

            Absolutely! Even if the Crystal was maneuvering to produce a collision, the speed and maneuverability of the Fitz should have made such an attack futile.
            I’m afraid that the bridge watch, CIC, the CO, even the XO may have some serious questions to answer, if only we could hear the answers. Foremost, I have to wonder again how an 800 foot cargo ship, almost unmaneuverable compared to the FFG, could have rammed her amidships, on a clear night, and with the world’s most advanced radar systems, as well as 2020 eyes-sight supposedly on full alert.
            The official investigations will take some time. Meanwhile, we must sit and wonder. In the end, I expect the answers to be less than fully informative: a CO and some other officers suffering bad writeups in their service jackets!

          • @USS_Fallujah

            Given the loss of life I think it will be more than a bad write-up. Certainly a half dozen or more careers are over. Usually the USN uses these tragedy’s as a powerful learning tool, this will be no different. I expect the outcome to be less exciting than many expect, I think the OOD and team lost (mental) track of the Crystal after they executed maneuvers to avoid her, then didn’t pick up the course change and a CBDR mishap results.
            I think much of the info coming from the Crystal’s captain is CYA, but we’ll see, I suspect (but have no proof beyond what everyone else knows) that the first indication they had of a collision was when it happened, but again we’ll know for sure soon enough.

          • Topnife

            I’m finding it difficult to get my head wrapped around how the bridge watch of Fitzgerald could let a ship the size of the Crystal slip their minds, especially when it got within a couple hundred yards — still enough time to sound an alarm. That is, after all, the primary purpose of the bridge watch.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            As with past collision investigations I think we’ll find it wasn’t 1 big mistake, but a series of otherwise harmless errors that were strung together in just the right way. Bad communications, poor situational awareness, etc. There will be easily a half dozen key moments when one simple fix would have avoided disaster, but somehow no one steps up to address, or notice, the growing threat.

          • Topnife

            That sort of analysis almost invariably will demonstrate numerous small errors, that had an additive effect: a series of decisions, any one of which might have prevented the disaster if done differently. This can be used constructively, or as a means to shift the blame away from higher authority.
            This phenomenon has been demonstrated systematically in aircraft accidents, and has led to the development of “cockpit resource management”. I wonder if the Navy has adapted that concept to the bridge watch(?).

      • kapena16

        Cargo ship crew sleeping on watch is utter speculation by various sources made to soften the blow of blame to Navy. As a civilian ship officer with experience on US flag ships in this area, sleeping on the bridge of this ship in this area is next to impossible. Continued regurgitating of the ‘theory’ cargo ship crew was asleep is repugnant to me. Capt of cargo ship has already stated IN NUMEROUS NEWS REPORTS they were trying to signal the Fitz to warn them off and out of the way. THEY WERE AWAKE ONBOARD THE ACX CRYSTAL!

        • @USS_Fallujah

          I think that baloney, personally. Given the track before and after the collision I think it very likely the Crystal was on Iron Mike and the crew took about 30m to realize they’d been in a collision and turn back. That’s consistent with having the bridge empty.
          We’ll know for sure in a few weeks, but right now I’d give ZERO credence to what the Crystal’s captain says.

          • kapena16

            Brilliant assessment. Ship collides, everyone takes a half hour to wake up, go to bridge, wipe the sleep from their eyes, turn the auto pilot off, and turn around and go back. Really? Meanwhile on the FITZ everyone wide awake and just completely spaced out as this ship got closer & closer? Or what?

          • @USS_Fallujah

            I hate to guess, but a likely scenario is that the Fitz was transitioning the shipping lane, assumed the Crystal would maintain it’s course and pass astern, missed the Crystal’s two course corrections to port and didn’t pick up the closing distance as the bearing was constant, ie the Crystal is still where she should be in relation, but the distance was quickly decreasing as the two ships headings quickly closed.
            Clearly a lot went wrong on the bridge of the Fitz, and 7 sailors died because of it. Those officers and those above them will pay heavily for the mistakes made, but that said – it remains highly probably there was no officer on (or awake) on the Crystal’s bridge.

          • kapena16

            Your ‘assumption’ that the OOD on the FITZ ASSUMED the CRYSTAL would pass astern (???) tells me you have little, if any, time on the bridge as a OOD or officer in charge of the ship’s navigation and directing it’s movements. WHY would an officer assume the ship on his starboard bow would ‘give way’ and pass astern?

            Also not at all clear about your idea of ‘transitioning’ a ‘shipping lane’? What does that mean?

            If you hate to guess…don’t.

    • USNVO

      Not sure what version of COLREGS you are reading but pretty much all the accounts now indicate the Fitzgerald was being overtaken and therefore the stand on vessel. Also, since it appears that neither ship maneuvered before the collision, the impact from the starboard quarter further reinforces the fact that the Fitzgerald was the Stand on vessel. The real question is why didn’t they maneuver to avoid the obviously not maneuvering container ship. That is a lot more difficult, especially when the container ship tracking as expected until they were very close.

      As to your other statements,
      – Almost all Navy ships have almost all communications centralized in radio central. In the DDG, that is below the waterline where it is usually safer, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. The other place is the pilot house which probably lost power for obvious reasons. So nothing unusual in not being able to communicate. Placement of radios is a matter of compromise between security and survivability.

      – the container ship maneuvered to port to follow its nav track toward Tokyo 10 minutes or so before the collision. If you work backwards and assume the DDG was making 12 knots or so on roughly the same track, you would find that the ship was roughly 2000yds on the starboard quarter when the container ship maneuvered with a CPA around 1000yds on the starboard beam, nothing really unusual there. If you assume the OOD reported the contact to the CO at say 12000yds, then he had reported it probably 45 minutes or so before the course change as an overtaking contact. If no one saw the course change, there was no reason to call the CO since they already had. If they didn’t see the contact at all, there would again be no reason to call the CO. Either way, the CO not being on the bridge is not unusual for similar incidents. Same with collision alarms, etc. In my experience, which is just my experience and may or may not be representative of the circumstances of the collision, anticipating the future actions of contacts in confined waters is sort of an advanced skill and given everything else the watch teams were focused on, may have been overlooked. They were the stand on vessel.

      It’s a tragedy and I am sure, just like other similar tragedies, it will be found that there is a long list of mistakes and oversights committed by the crews of both ships.

      • Topnife

        You have obviously made a very astute and well-informed analysis. An article this AM (Washington Free Beacon) states that the container ship was on autopilot and made no course deviation until after the impact when it rebounded. It did not maneuver prior to the impact, according to current accounts.
        The article also states that the multiple Fitz radars did not detect the cargo ship! However, the cargo ship was using its AIS continually, and apparently the Fitz was not. Regardless of radar, CPA reports, when a ship is that close the bridge should have a visual, and hopefully lookouts would have noticed something. This suggests to me that there is a tendency to rely on the gadgets and forget about 2020 visual detection systems. If the bridge had any visual, they would certainly have detected an impending collision, and would have sounded the collision alarms if it was unavoidable (and with good visuals, it was avoidable).
        I haven’t seen any info so far on the speed of the Fitz, which would be a determining factor on who was overtaking. The cargo ship was probably making 18-20 knots, and may well have been overtaking. However, when all of its crew is asleep in their bunks, the rules-of-the-road won’t help, and of course the Fitz could have been going much faster.
        Putting all your radios in one place seems like a great idea for security, until that one space gets destroyed, and renders you helpless to call for aid.
        Certainly the crew response was outstanding.

        I always root for the Navy, but this looks pretty bad.

        • USNVO

          We’ll find out what the situation is soon enough. I read the article this morning but found they made quite a few errors. Like the container ship being on autopilot is the same as the pilot house being unmanned. It is also likely that they were wrong about tracking the ship on radar. Consider, you could be tracking the ship on radar and still not have noticed it had suddenly changed from a 1000yd CPA on the starboard beam to a CBDR situation. Lookouts and other bridge watchstanders could easily miss a 15 degree course change, especially since aspect angle was changing quite a bit as it was overtaking, and since the OOD already know about the contact and it was very close already, the lookouts didn’t say anything.

          I have no idea if that is what happened, but an overtaking situation fits all the evidence much better. For a crossing situation, there are a bunch of things that had to happen, which in isolation make sense but which, when considered together just make you scratch you head. For instance, It makes sense that the container ship altered course to starboard to try to avoid collision, but then the fact they didn’t stop makes no sense since they would have known they hit something. Also, why did they alter course 15 degrees to port before the collision if they were in a crossing situation and stand on? Again, the DDGs track for a crossing situation makes sense until you look at the chart. Then it doesn’t.

          Nope, I will bet that
          – the Fitzgerald was returning to port roughly on course 090
          – the containership was overtaking, both ships were aware of each other
          – the containership lost track of the DDG and turned to port
          – the DDG was stand on and didn’t pay enough attention to the overtaking vessel.
          – and neither ship noticed the previous safe 1000yd or so CPR was now CBDR

          fits all the known evidence before and after the collision. It could still be wrong of course, we will have to wait and see,

          • Topnife

            Your analysis seems plausible too. Like you say, we’ll have to wait for the facts to come out (hopefully they will). Once I heard of the brief course change by Crystal, I had speculated that it may have occurred after the collision, the timing of which is still very uncertain. It would be an artifact, or a heading change caused by the collision itself. The Crystal then veered east for an extended time, before reversing course back to the scene. This leads me to suspect that the watch on Crystal’s bridge was pretty slack.

            Following this story, and trying to make deductions about what happened has been welcome mental exercise – not that my conclusions will ever affect the outcome (and if I wrongfully misjudge somebody, it won’t do them any harm either).

            Hopefully, the Navy will be reasonably forthcoming with the results of the JAGMAN, to settle all the speculation.

          • If the radars on both ships were set to 6 or 12 miles (likely) the picture inside a mile would not be at all useful.

        • mariner138

          Former OOD on a CVS on Yankee Station with several approaches to Yokosuka, Sasebo and Subic and OOD on tin cans in USNR for another 5+ years, I can’t imagine a captain not being on the bridge if anyone thought the CPA was going to be 1,000 yards or so, especially in a high traffic area like where they were. Standing night orders I saw were _always_ to wake the old man and get him on the bridge if the CPA was anywhere closer than 4-5 miles in a busy area. Like a salty navigator once told me, “you don’t want to be the only guy at the end of the long green table without the ash trays” (dating myself…this was when a lot of guys smoked like chimneys). Could probably still do maneuvering board solutions in no time in my sleep.

      • JustACitizen

        No, the Fitzgerald would be the “give-way” vessel. It was likely on a Southerly bearing when struck from the cargo ship on an Easterly heading.
        Fitzgerald (in give way position)

        Cargo ship (in Stand on position): ——->

        • JustACitizen

          Fix to ‘drawing’ in previous post (it was truncated by the posting mechanism)

          – Fitzgerald (in give way position)

          – Cargo ship (in Stand on position): ——->

          • JustACitizen

            Darn – messed up again. Keeps deleting spaces. Last try (imagine the the dots as water):
            ………………………………….Fitzgerald (in give way position)
            Cargo ship (in Stand on position): =======> ………………..

          • USNVO

            I got it, but your analysis doesn’t fit the evidence as well as other alternatives.
            1. Damage to the two ships. Minimal damage to the DDG, clearly from the starboard quarter or steeper. Portside damage to the bow of the container ship only. Large number of compartments effected argues for a glancing blow like the Titanic. The only way that works is if one or both ships attempted to maneuver at the last minute and that does not appear to be the case, at least as reported. The report is that the containership was on autopilot and unaware of the collision until 25 minutes after the event. You can see how the HY80 deckedge of the DDG knifed through the port bow of the ship, I would say 150-160 relative impact angle.
            2, Reports, unconfirmed and anonymous at this point, leaked from the Japanese investigators that the container ship was overtaking the DDG. I have even seen comments supposedly from the Master of the ship that his ship was overtaking the DDG when he left the pilothouse earlier. This would have been before the alteration to port that caused the collision.
            3. Course for the DDG makes zero sense for a crossing situation, they are headed straight for shoal water. Look at the AIS track on a geographic overlay to see what I mean. On the other hand, since both ships were headed for Tokyo, it makes all kinds of sense for an overtaking situation.
            4. Finally, an overtaking situation also fits the known events better. Ship is overtaking to starboard, is pretty close to CPA so within 2000yds or so on the starboard quarter (note, this is an overtaking situation until possibility of collision no longer exists), and then alters course to port to go to its next navpoint since it lost track of the DDG or just because it is following the autotrack. DDG doesn’t see the change since they are the stand on vessel so they are not focused on the ship that has been passing them for an hour. Since it already is close, by the time anyone recognizes the situation, it is too late.

            I don’t know what the truth is, we will have to wait and see, However, an overtaking situation where the container ship turned port before it was clear and the DDG lost track of the ship because it was the stand on vessel much better fits the evidence as opposed to the alternate crossing situation.

          • kapena16

            What source do you have that the navy ship was overtaken? What course and speed was she on? From where was she steaming and headed to?

          • USNVO

            There were multiple news reports, all quoting anonymous sources of course since no one is authorized to say anything so take it for what it is worth, that investigators from the Japanese investigative team stated the Crystal was overtaking the DDG and that neither ship attempted to maneuver before the collision. Other reports said the master of the Crystal said the ship was overtaking (take that for what it is worth since it is second hand). I don’t know what course or speed the DDG was on, but if you look at the chart and the impact damage, they most likely were headed roughly 090. If you assume they were pulling into port on Friday morning, the most likely reason they were in that area, then they were making 12kts or so. There was a Reuters report, supposedly from the Master of the ship to the shipping company that indicated the DDG veered in front of the Crystal (inferring overtaking) about the same time the Crystal turned left (very coincidental that). It also indicated they tried to use flashing light (pretty unbelievable from a merchant ship) to attract attention and sounded the danger signal and maneuvered 10 minutes before the collision (you can’t miss a ship in ten minutes? Yeah right).

            So, there is really no reason for the Fitzgerald to be where she was unless she was headed to Yoko. If she was just cutting circles, she would have done it away from the main shipping lane. You really have to look at the Crystal AIS on a geographic overlay to get a good feel of where they are but it really makes no sense for anything else.

          • kapena16

            Do you have link to story you read? I’ve read reuters this AM. Didn’t say anything you did. I’ve seen outrageous statements from numerous experts, few that have any grounds of fact. Was FITZ returning? I still haven’t seen any definitive report from a reliable source that says so. Many stated (early on) she was outbound departing from Yokosuka, but again, heresay. So I don’t know.

            How do we know which ship was “overtaking” if we do not know track or especially speed, of FITZ?

            Can’t fathom how Mate on Crystal would steer directly into ship on his beam if he were overtaking the FITZ. As for autopilot ‘theories’ and conspiracies, most systems will NOT allow for a turn on predetermined track line without officer acknowledging it is safe to do so. He has to walk over to unit that is usually giving an audible/visual alert that it is time to change course. Mate has to input a positive response (pushing buttons) to allow machine to steer ship on a new course.

            If FITZ was on Crystals port side, relatively close (as the THEORY goes) and cargo chip turned in the way of or towards path of FITZ, every single alarm on bridge would be going off warning mate not to continue. These would be from AIS/ECDIS and radar units, likely 2 or 3 of each. And everyone believes the Mate on cargo ship would simply ignore these ear piercing sounds/alerts and continue on??

            Sorry, I don’t by that.

          • I can imagine how it happened if it was an overtaking.
            1. All watch teams had radars on 6 or 12 mile scale. Questionably tuned and certainly not set up to track targets inside a mile, maybe obscured in sea return.
            2. No AIS from Fitz. Mate on Cristal mostly using a ECDIS/AIS display to keep track of other vessels?
            3. Crystal lookout on starboard side?
            4. Mate conning station behind wide console not properly dimmed so he had no night vision? Maybe window framing obscured view in the direction the Fitz was approaching? Means no effective lookout on port side.
            5. Fitz running slow, under 6 knots? Maybe one rudder, two screw configuration? meaning a pig to maneuver, not a racehorse at all.

            I will say this is a ton of speculation. More like suggestions for investigators to ask.

          • kapena16

            Yes…”tons” of speculation!
            But let’s use your scenario. FITZ slow steaming with no AIS on as cargo ship flies by on overtaking track.
            1) navy lookout on starboard wing didn’t see this?
            2) OOD didn’t monitor cargo ship overtaking?
            3) JOD didn’t make effort to watch this developing situation.
            4) Nav team & OOD all had to know a new course towards Tokyo Wan was up ahead and overtaking ship likely to be headed there. Worthy of careful scrutiny.
            5) Crystal turns to port in front of FITZ. Nobody saw this on Navy ship?
            6) Nobody on FITZ opted to go to “All Stop” and or “Full astern” or to turn to port away from Crystal?

            Lot of speculation indeed.

            One thing everyone should agree on. Navy needs to use AIS in these areas.

          • All except 5. Crystal was still behind Fitz when she adjusted course to port one or more times to follow a curved track. If it was an overtaking. Still just guesses.

          • kapena16

            Please share “how you know that” fact. How do you know physical position of each ship? No AIS data of FITZ. You are speculating like everyone else, yes?

          • I wrote “if it was overtaking” which is conditional, and I wrote “still just guesses”. so it should be clear that I am as ignorant of the destroyer track as everyone else.

          • Tom Wood

            Running under 6 knots? Surely you don’t mean this in a busy sea lane. Was there a pier, or quay out there?

          • Honestly? Who knows what the Navy is up to most of the time? Some sort of ETA issue, drills, maintaining a station? I have since found out that she is 2 rudder/2 screw configuration so she would have been very agile even at slow speeds. Like I said – speculation only. No track released yet.

          • Tom Wood

            Yeah, I just noticed short time ago twin screw, twin rudder…could be an ETA consideration, think she was ISE in transit..

      • dantheman

        I have five years of USN DD OOD experience and have not been able to reconcile Fitzgerald’s CO in his sea cabin while his ship was “in extremis.” Your analysis is highly plausible. They had an overtaking situation that they thought was “solved” but it came active again when Crystal made a course correction to port (as stated by Crystal’s CO.) Most of the OD’s attention will now be focused forward, as it should be; don’t have to worry about that guy behind us any longer, and CO goes back to sea cabin. Almost certainly an overtaking situation with Fitzgerald privileged. I acknowledge this is nothing but plausible speculation on my part; hope the truth will out. Condolences to all concerned.

        • Tom Wood

          Where do you see that the CO was in his sea cabin, and not instead in his in port cabin?

          • dantheman

            It’s not called a sea cabin for nothing; CO’s sleep in the sea cabin when underway.

          • Tom Wood

            see my extended question concerning the cabin below…

    • Frank Lentz

      I think it pushed but did not “Ride up over it”, there’s a bulbous bow on the container ship, that’s what caused the massive damage under water not seen in any of those photos.

      So, most of the posters who I’ve seen being critical of the bridge/cic watch standers, that ship does not have a radar that makes a sweep like a 49 radar, it’s a phased array, all done electronically, additionally the heart of the Ageis system was the combining of radars from ships in a task force to give a complete picture of situational awareness.

      I’m sure somebody is going to be held accountable for this, just not sure if blaming the watchstanders on the bridge is appropriate at this time, lots of other factors are not known to us yet, like what other traffic was there, was there bridge to bridge comms, were they confused by ship navigational lights, was the SPY reporting the contacts correctly. So many variables.

      MMC USN Ret

      • Topnife

        You are certainly correct about the underwater bulbous bow of the Crystal, that actually did most of the serious damage. Whatever the mechanism, the normal line of the ship’s hull looks “bent”at the site of the collision. That may just be an illusion, but it also could be irreparable damage.
        As to your comment on the radars, I certainly hope that the Navy has not totally eliminated navigation radar, and the ability of the bridge watch and CIC to track the course, speed, and CPA of every ship within 30 miles. I assert that the bridge watch would have had that info available, as would CIC. The bridge also had 2020 eyeballs for supplementary information, but the collision appears to have been almost a total surprise.

        Both the OD and the CO have a basic obligation to keep their ship out of danger. Local conditions may somewhat mitigate the blame, but you and I both know that multiple careers have been destroyed. I kind of feel for the CO, who apparently had no opportunity to act, but we both know that will not be much of an excuse, according to the Navy way.

        • Keith Scudder

          If you go to Wikipedia, it has all the stats about the U S S Fitzgerald. They had
          4 types of radar plus many other features.


      The Fundamental Transformation of our Navy started in 1992. It then rapidly started changing to where you have this collision and others like it and a Navy PC taken by the Iranians. The massive technology influx to Naval Forces will never make a Navy whole until it’s leadership and crew understand the Navy and a Navy vessel is not there for progressive social experimentation. The eye has been taken off the ball. When you have floating love boats…the situational awareness is severely degraded as we have observed.

      • Topnife

        Your observations certainly suggest possible causative factors. A bridge watch of both sexes could certainly remain professional, or it could become a party, depending on discipline at multiple levels. So far there has been no info regarding the sexual spectrum involved.
        All ships have numerous spaces where personnel can skylark in one way or another — and the other often leads to pregnancy, as well as interpersonal strife.
        I was always struck by the male camaraderie that developed in an underway wardroom, that vanished within 24 hours of making port.

  • Robert Owen

    unless there is a really extenuating circumstance, the captain will likely face a court martial along with the OOD and several other of the bridge crew who failed to comprehend where the container ship was in relation to them

    • Bubblehead

      The USN has a longstanding position that the Captain of a ship is always ultimately responsible for anything that happens on his ship. It avoids the slippery slope of plausible deniability or ignorance excuse. And with so many lives at stake, it does make sense. The Captain at a minimum will no longer be a Captain of a ship. Best case, he gets a desk job. Whoever was he Officer of the Deck (at least that is what he was called on a sub) likely will face far greater consequences based on what we know now. He probably made A LOT of bad decisions, least of which, not waking up the Captain if he had ANY doubts.

      • wilkinak

        It’s an OOD on the surface as well. Hopefully this OOD never has the Deck on another ship.

    • WW lll

      The OOD and someone in CIC for sure.
      The Captain? 😴 I feel sorry for the poor guy.

  • TMA 89

    Looking at the AIS data, Crystal turned from ~088 to ~083, toward Fitzgerald, at ~16:08 (01:08 local) and then again from 083 to ~069 at ~16:17, and it appears Fitzgerald was juggling multiple contacts. It’s possible Fitzgerald thought they’d resolved Crystal, planning to pass behind her (maybe even briefed their CO to that effect, with a CPA 2-5KYD astern of Crystal by my estimate), but then missed Crystal’s turns toward Fitzgerald, on top of what are likely many additional human factors. However, even 2-5KYD does not sound like a conservative plan.

    • TMA 89

      For more detailed info see comment by TMA89 at:

      https :// arstechnica. com/information-technology/2017/06/internet-of-ships-tells-tale-of-uss-fitzgerald-tragedy-or-half-of-it/?comments=1&post=33535919

      As copied here:

      Tragically, lives have been lost despite heroic efforts. Below is some attempt to understand what may have happened, pending results of the full investigations.

      I’ve read some good (non-fake-news) summaries about what happened AFTER the collision: according to preliminary crew reports Crystal was initially completely unaware and hadn’t seen or paid attention to Fitz; after the collision Crystal sheered right according to available AIS track data, corrected left (probably by autopilot) and drove on for half an hour while mustering everyone, trekking the 1/8th mile to the bow and down multiple decks to assess damage and only then realized there might be a ship in distress to return to; all consistent with the AIS track data. There are a lot of conspiracy theories about this period, which I find to be confusion and/or typical fake news. More below regarding Crystal’s potential liability.

      As to what happened BEFORE the collision, there’s some info coming out but obviously much more to come.

      Below is some attempt to understand what may have happened BEFORE — pending results of the full investigations.

      Fitzgerald almost certainly detected Crystal (with Crystal’s radar cross-section and piles of right-angle metal, it’s inconceivable that they didn’t have a strong radar return), BUT Fitzgerald’s main response may have been based on the initial, more easterly Crystal course.

      If Fitzgerald missed Crystal’s later turns northerly and toward Fitzgerald, then Fitzgerald was expecting Crystal to pass ahead and CPA at 3,000 yds or more.

      Critically, Fitzgerald’s initial assessment of Crystal may not have been updated during the ~22 minutes that Crystal veered toward Fitzgerald, slowly and slightly turning northward for what probably were purely pre-planned navigational reasons. (See the AIS data plot below.)

      Fitzgerald then may not have sufficiently monitored Crystal’s expected positive and INCREASING bearing rate, which instead actually DWINDLED to zero (CBDR, i.e. collision). The lack of sufficient attention by multiple Fitzgerald watch standers to these key pieces of information (Crystal bearing rate and CPA), combined with Crystal’s overall lack of attentiveness, may all come down to human factors in a somewhat high traffic environment.

      While radar should suffice, it will be important to learn what lighting the Crystal was showing, as in just minimal nav lights or also deck lights (artist conceptions of different possibilities below), in part to understand what the likely single Fitzgerald lookout actually assigned the sector with Crystal could see and was thinking.

      There’s a lot of discussion of the watch standers using the AIS data, which they may to some extent, but normally much more reliable and timely, especially in clear whether, would be (a) computer-generated bearing rate via radar and (b) visuals (possibly from bearing generating binoculars). It’s much more about bearing rate as further discussed below, and the Navy will surely be focusing on bearing rate, radar and visuals, i.e. back to basics, in this tragically avoidable situation.

      IN MORE DETAIL, the AIS data in the plot shown in the JPEG below are from Wikipedia at
      https :// en.wikipedia. org /wiki/USS_Fitzgerald_and_MV_ACX_Crystal_collision
      BUT with additional calculations annotated as shown here
      https :// c1.staticflickr. com/5/4249/35453437265_e437f1380c_o.jpg
      and described further below.

      Looking closely, at least two SMALL Crystal course changes TOWARD Fitzgerald are visible in the half hour before the collision. These relatively SMALL course changes could have been normal and even automated as they appear to have allowed Crystal to follow a track around the Izu Peninsula and around Oshima, generally maintaining at least some minimum distance to land (apparently about 5 nm where possible), as would be typical to remain in deep water and avoid running aground. And so, distance to land in actuality may have been the main determining factor regarding Crystal’s changing heading, and that may have been according to a pre-determined track, including the course changes in the half hour before the collision.

      Assuming a constant Crystal speed of ~17.3 kts (~20 mph) as depicted in the AIS plot, it is a simple calculation to roughly estimate times of Crystal course changes at 16:08 and then 16:17. Also, headings can be approximated from the above plot, assuming that the plot shows north as directly up. The three courses would have been approximately 088 initially, 083 after the change at 16:08 finally 069 after the change at 16:17. (16:30 UTC corresponds to 01:30 local time as is being used by the media for the time of the collision.) (Noting that if north is not exactly up or if the times are all shifted, still all the courses and times are relative, so that would not change the estimates below.)

      The prior positions, speed(s) and course(s) of the Fitzgerlad have not been reported, however, the photos of damage suggest that Fitzgerald’s course was ~150 at the time of the collision (i.e. approximately 80 degrees off from Crystal’s), estimating from an angle at collision of somewhat less than 90 degrees (i.e. Crystal’s 069 + 080 = 149). That the angle was slightly less than 90 is suggested by the lack of damage to the starboard side of Crystal and by the fact that, while the collision was violent, the ships did deflect off of each other, rather than Crystal damaging Fitzgerald even more had the collision been even closer to 90 degrees). In any event, as shown below, the exact course and speed of Fitzgerald do not significantly alter the estimations below.

      (As two caveats, first the angle of collision here is estimated from the damage to Crystal’s above-water bow and Fitzgerald’s topside, but Crystal’s below-water bulbous bow almost certainly impacted Fitzgerald first, and it’s not possible to say how that might have changed the angle of collision when the upper portions of the ships collided a very short time later; nor does this account for any last-minute collision avoidance course change by Fitzgerald (but any such avoidance should have led to even less of a near 90 degree collision). Secondly, with no Fitzgerald AIS data, it’s possible that Fitzgerald was on a more easterly course and therefore there could have been less difference in their courses until shortly before the collision (the apparent 80 degree collision then being a mystery), in which case what appears to be a crossing situation might actually have been an overtaking situation, with the overtaking vessel then having the responsibility to resolve the situation as opposed to the vessel to starboard. This possibility, however, seems difficult to reconcile with the collision as it actually occurred, at what appears to have been closer to 90 degrees of heading difference between the ships. In any event, near the collision point of any meeting situation, crossing or overtaking, once “in extremis,” both ships have a duty to take positive action to avoid collision.)

      The key suggestion from the CPA estimates above is that, had Crystal NOT turned left, then her position at 16:30 (when the collision did occur) would have been 0.4 miles further to the east AND 1.4 miles further to the south of the actual collision point and near what then would might been the uninterrupted, FUTURE track of Fitzgerald. That’s what the initial plan might have envisioned, Crystal being at a distance of about 1.5 miles from the actual point of collision, which is about 9,100 feet or 18 “boat lengths” using Fitzgerald’s length for reference — still not a lot of distance but possibly sufficient when passing ASTERN. (On this point, the investigation will surely look into the Fitzgerald commanding officer’s (CO’s) “standing orders” to his watch standers about, for example, the minimum distance allowed to traffic, as well as looking into any daily “night orders” modifying the standing orders regarding distances, speed, etc. and the familiarity of the OOD, possible JOOD, other watch standers and actually all of the officers with those orders and whether those orders were violated.)

      Given the approximate course and a likely speed of Fitzgerald, had Crystal not changed course, then there might not have been a collision, and Fitzgerald would have passed ASTERN of Crystal.

      Without knowing the actual speed of Fitzgerald, it’s not possible to say with certainty how far away Fitzgerald would have been astern of Crystal (i.e. CPA = “closest point of approach”) in the scenario with no Crystal course changes and no collision. However, typically, to conserve fuel, especially when simply transiting at night, a warship will run at a relatively slow speed, maybe 10-15 knots, maybe 20 knots, but most likely not a maximum speed of 30+ knots (and much less than 10 knots could be dangerous for lack of steerageway in the reported 6-10 foot swells). So, depending on Fitzgerald’s speed, here are estimated CPAs (again, assuming the above courses for Crystal and Fitzgerald):

      Fitzgerald speed -> CPA
      10 knots -> 2.4 nm or 15,000 feet or 30 “boat lengths”
      15 knots -> 1.6 nm or 9,800 feet or 20 “boat lengths”
      20 knots -> 1.2 nm or 7,300 feet or 15 “boat lengths”

      Fitzgerald watch standers would have been well-trained and equipped to detect all contacts, whether visually or more likely initially by radar, and to computationally calculate a CPA for each contact. Then, based on the CPAs, the contacts are triaged and actions are planned. It therefore seems unlikely that Fitzgerald did not detect Crystal at all. More likely is that Fitzgerald did detect Crystal, well BEFORE the above course changes (e.g. 30-40 minutes before the collision and, IMPORTANTLY 10-20 minutes before Crystal’s course changes toward Fitzgerald), and may then have gone through the entire, normal, planned procedures for dealing with an approaching contact BASED ON Crystal’s course BEFORE the above changes.

      Those procedures would have included CIC reporting the contact to the OOD on the bridge, based on radar detection and with a calculated CPA as above (again, based on data from before Crystal’s course changes), would have included lookouts confirming the contact visually, and possibly would have included Fitzgerald’s OOD deciding that Crystal contact would pass as much as 2.4 miles or 15,000 feet (or 30 “boat lengths”) ahead and eventually to the port of Fitzgerald. That could seem like a relatively safe plan, even at a relatively close distance of 2.4 miles, for Fitzgerald to pass astern of Crystal at two miles and then let Crystal move away port. This is especially true if there was other traffic in the area complicating further action to avoid Crystal (e.g. slowing down) and to create an even larger CPA. It’s likely not only that Fitzgerald saw Crystal but that Fitzgerald identified Crystal as a large container ship. It’s also likely that Fitzgerald’s CO, or the XO (both new to their positions), was briefed on the plan to avoid Crystal by the OOD by phone, BUT, again, that might have been based on an initial, all-is-safe plan or target motion analysis (TMA) solution, before Crystal’s course changes.

      Then, insidiously, Crystal appears to have made at least two small course changes toward Fitzgerald. And then it is somewhat easier to imagine how watch standers on Fitzgerald might have reacted with less attention than turned out to be necessary. The automated contact systems on Fitzgerald may have automatically recalculated Crystal’s CPA as Crystal changed course (assuming such systems were up and running and not down for maintenance, etc.). The question then is, when that one displayed number (Crystal CPA), among many numbers for many contacts, did change, how was this noticed and what additional action was taken? Was there an automated CPA alarm on Fitzgerald? (For that matter, on either ship?) Did a Fitzgerald CIC watch stander notify the officer in charge of the CIC? Did CIC notify the bridge? The bridge has their own repeater display of the same information — did a watch stander on the bridge notice the change?

      And, separate from the CIC/radar data/displays, did a lookout notice that Crystal was not “drawing ahead” (i.e. to the left), as she should have if Fitzgerald was going to pass astern of Crystal as had been the plan? Rather than “drawing ahead” (which means to slowly appear to move to the left in this situation), Crystal actually would have transitioned from initially drawing left or ahead slightly to what is known as “constant bearing, decreasing range” (CBDR), as she successively changed her course slightly further to the north. “CBDR” is a textbook, fundamental warning sign of a collision. Crystal initially, when first detected, would have had small “left bearing rate” (small because she was far away) but, insidiously, that bearing rate, to anyone on Fitzgerald paying enough continuous attention to it, would have dwindled slowly to zero, CBDR, RATHER than increasing as expected. Did the various watch standers think that the bridge OOD had already been informed, that there might be some error in the data, that the OOD had the situation under control, and that no additional action was needed on the part of any individual? Herein may be the human factors, across multiple watch standers, that contributed to the collision, at least from the perspective of Fitzgerald’s crew.

      It is conceivable that console operators in Fitzgerald’s CIC could have discounted or not noticed the deteriorating CPA data in front of them, after meeting their initial responsibility of ensuring that the bridge was aware of the initially-not-threatening contact and perhaps being occupied with additional contacts. (Also, it’s only data on a screen, assuming that watch standers in CIC did not make use of any long range, mast-mounted camera systems at their disposal, which they do not typically do for run-of-the-mill traffic.)

      More puzzling is what was happening on the bridge, where there should have been a clear visual of Crystal by eye. Typically only one lookout would be assigned to look in the direction of Crystal.

      Here’s an Internet image of Crystal during daytime at an angle approximating what may have been seen during this crossing situation:
      https ://c1.staticflickr. com/5/4261/35453437855_0e85a7a75d_o.jpg

      But, it was well after sunset and not long after moonrise, so here is an artist conception of Crystal at night with decks lights on, same angle, with the ship silhouette just visible (it seems the collision may have occurred an hour or so after a 60% moon rose to the north of Crystal as seen from Fitzgerald) — in this image the silhouette should be just visible in a dark room:
      https ://c1.staticflickr. com/5/4236/35453438255_eee5618174_o.jpg

      And Crystal again, now with minimal navigation lights BUT WITHOUT deck lights, same angle:
      https ://c1.staticflickr. com/5/4277/35453438685_eda1204742_o.jpg

      And, less relevantly, here’s how, looking at just the minimum required navigation lights, a small ship up close can look like a large ship at a distance — the “ship” here is less than 100 feet but could show the same lights:
      https ://c1.staticflickr. com/5/4211/35286977792_82514d7282_o.jpg

      In any event, given the conditions as they’re thought to have been, it’s almost inconceivable that none of Fitzgerald’s watch standers had visual contact on Crystal as she may have appeared with or without deck lights. (Of course, another issue is what lighting was operable and turned on on both ships.)

      As shown in the original ArsTechnica article (at
      https ://arstechnica. com/information-technology/2017/06/internet-of-ships-tells-tale-of-uss-fitzgerald-tragedy-or-half-of-it/
      ), there DOES appear to have been other traffic which, at least initially, may have appeared to be of equal or higher priority. If Fitzgerald was not changing course and had been traveling from the northwest to the southeast for a while, then it appears in AIS that they previously and simultaneously had to consider additional crossing traffic, before encountering Crystal. Also and in particular, there appears to have been at least one other contact also approaching Fitzgerald from the southwest, also in a port crossing situation simultaneous with Crystal, in which Fitzgerald generally would have had the obligation to maneuver to resolve both situations while RELYING on Crystal and any similar traffic crossing from Fitzgerald’s starboard to port to MAINTAIN course and speed.

      This raises what could turn out to be an important ISSUE. If, based on the apparent “crossing situation,” Fitzgerald was “burdened” to maneuver to resolve the situation, it nonetheless ALSO is true that Crystal had a responsibility to “stand on,” i.e. to maintain course and speed. (It’s like passing someone on the highway; it’s the responsibility of the passing car to avoid the car being passed, but the car being passed also is responsible for not making the situation worse, e.g. not speeding up.) This assumes that Crystal’s “OOW” (with whatever training, experience and awareness that person had) recognized the crossing situation, whereas it appears that instead Crystal may have been making course changes consistent with navigation to avoid land BUT oblivious to responsibilities in a crossing situation.

      In court, it may be difficult for Crystal to argue that a crossing situation had not yet developed (when she made her course changes), given the collision and given that her course changes appear to have precipitated the collision. At the very least, positive “bridge-to-bridge” radio communication from Crystal to Fitzgerald on the common traffic frequency would have been prudent BEFORE Crystal acted counter to her default obligation in a crossing situation, i.e. altered course to the left toward traffic on her port. (It is ironic that if a large vessel like Crystal were going to make a drastic course change she might make a general “SECURITE” announcement over the common traffic radio frequency to alert all traffic, but she would not generally announce minor, normal course changes for navigation, even while it is such minor changes that are more likely to go unnoticed by other traffic. This doesn’t change the concept however that she should communicate with PARTICULAR vessels in a crossing situation.) But, again, there’s nothing yet to suggest that Crystal’s OOW even had any awareness of Fitzgerald (or that Crystal and Fitzgerald watch standers could even speak the same language well enough to communicate by radio). Lack of proper lookout, lack of attention to “stand on” responsibility in a crossing situation and lack of communication when deviating from that responsibility may all weigh against Crystal in court.

      From the 16:08 course change to the collision may have been only about 22 minutes (as estimated in the above plot). That may seem like a lot of time, but many different distractions quickly can eat into that 22 minutes, distractions both external, as for example other traffic, and internal, as for example, any drills, testing or maintenance going on and/or normal discussion between watch standers about any number of topics, duty-related and not. Did Fitzgerald’s OOD ever look at Crystal long enough to detect the loss of bearing rate during those minutes, as the bearing rate slowly decayed to CBDR when it should have been increasing? Did Crystal’s OOW ever even notice Fitzgerald?

      Also insidiously, if Fitzgerald’s OOD was expecting Crystal to look like she would have had she not changed course, that would NOT have appeared much different from what actually happened.

      Fitzgerald then may not have sufficiently monitored Crystal’s EXPECTED positive and INCREASING bearing rate, which instead, while possibly initially observed to be small but leftward, then actually DWINDLED to zero (CBDR, i.e. collision), UNNOTICED. The lack of sufficient attention by multiple Fitzgerald watch standers to these key pieces of information (Crystal bearing rate and CPA), combined with Crystal’s overall lack of attentiveness, may all come down to human factors in a somewhat high traffic environment.

      In the eyes of an OOD juggling many tasks, a contact thought eventually to be passing ahead will, until near the actual crossing, have only a slow left bearing rate that is difficult to distinguish from CBDR, especially if that OOD is dealing with other issues and not looking continuously at the contact over at least a minute or so. What IS expected is left bearing rate as Crystal crosses Fitzgerald’s bow from right to left, as Fitzgerald passes safely astern of Crystal, BUT rapid left bearing rate only happens (geometrically speaking) toward the end of that crossing. In the beginning, at distance, there is much less bearing rate. Initially, the OOD would have looked for a slow but detectable leftward bearing rate to Crystal, not easily distinguishable from CBDR unless given careful, constant attention. And, even if a small left bearing rate WAS initially observed, it then definitely dwindled to zero, possibly due to the unanticipated and SUBTLE Crystal course changes toward Fitzgerald.

      The lookout (and CIC watch), ideally, would be paying attention to bearing rate, but lookouts are junior enlisted crew members typically with much less mathematics and TMA training, let alone responsibility and authority, compared to the OOD (and CIC console operators also are relatively junior, tucked away in CIC and facing a lot more data). And, even lookouts are paying attention to multiple contacts. Practically, a lookout’s job is less to mentally gauge bearing rates and more to report the existence of contacts and confirm their hull type and lighting. CIC, working directly with and literally facing the automated TMA systems is closer, virtually, to bearing rate and CPA information, but, again, CIC also is facing more contacts and is not directly experiencing the actual physical situation, until it’s too late. So, it is by design a team effort, and the OOD relies on the team to feed up details about individual contacts.

      On the other hand, triaging or prioritizing contacts, essentially juggling from one to the next, is led by the OOD, with the help of the officer in charge in CIC and, ultimately, with the help and supervision of the CO via at least occasional required reports from OOD to CO.

      One thought regarding root causes, not necessarily related to the Fitzgerald collision, I recall general guidance from the CO in the standing orders to seek the CO’s help, e.g. a phone call or, if needed, a 1MC announcement: “Captain to the bridge.” No one should be in the path when that call does goes out, and the CO comes hurdling through.

      But I don’t recall specific guidance about when an OOD should say the general traffic situation has become too much — not just for a particular OOD, but for the watch team. That would have required stepping back and a general judgment call about the overall situation. In contrast, a typical call to the captain tends to be about a particular contact.

      Options, when overall traffic increases, might be to add additional junior watch standers, to station a modified piloting detail, to request stationing of a senior watch officer, to request the CO, to slow down (to a limited extent), to ignore the destination and instead head out of heavy traffic. Of course, safety comes first in peacetime, and traffic may be heavy because of many merchants using traffic lanes in a common, relatively simple destination-to-destination direction, while a warship may be attempting to do something more challenging like crossing lanes at a busy location.

      However, I do not recall these being typical OOD considerations and decisions. An OOD, especially a newly qualified OOD (no comment or information as to the Fitzgerald’s situation) may be focused more on getting the “job” done (e.g. crossing the traffic lane) than calling an audible and changing the “job” (e.g. heading out of heavy traffic by the safest route, possibly until stationing of appropriate watch standers to deal with heavier than reasonable traffic). It may be that a senior officer must monitor that bigger picture. Are there sometimes specific guidelines, say in night orders, regarding acceptable traffic density (e.g. a variable number of contacts within 10kyd or 20kyd according to the type of watch stationed)? Maybe that’s a CO judgment based at least on the frequency and nature of calls from the OOD.

      Again, I don’t recall specific guidance along these lines, beyond the general trust of a CO that an OOD will speak up when the pucker factor gets to high and/or the trust of an OOD that a CO will gauge the watch standers and the acceptable pucker factor and intervene when needed.

      Otherwise, it seems a given traffic situation, especially at a choke point, can become arbitrarily complex, because, unlike in aviation, there’s no controlling authority (e.g. regional air traffic control) to limit the total real time traffic (again, interesting, but not necessarily relevant to the Fitzgerald collision).

      Of course, all this is based on assumptions about Crystal’s course and speed from the AIS data presently available and with little information about the course and speed of Fitzgerald, but, if the Crystal data is reliable and if Fitzgerald was not zigging around at high speed in the middle of the night with the captain not on the bridge (and it’s likely she was not), then Crystal’s subtle course changes toward Fitzgerald are exactly the kind of insidious factor which tragically only appears as a smoking gun after the fact to combine with what are likely many additional, human factors.

      Lessons will be learned.

      A formatted version of the above comments with embedded graphics can be found as a comment by TMA89 at:

      https :// arstechnica. com/information-technology/2017/06/internet-of-ships-tells-tale-of-uss-fitzgerald-tragedy-or-half-of-it/?comments=1&post=33535919

      • A very comprehensive analysis – thank you. My analysis is a bit more succinct. Judging by the angle of impact between Crystal and Fitzgerald, the ACX Crystal approached Fitzgerald from the after starboard quarter at a closing rate most likely of less than 8 knts. ACX Crystal should have been distinctly visible to the after lookouts on Fitzgerald, even if her radar returns were lost in sea clutter. With the skipper trapped in his sea cabin and the high number of casualties in the berthing spaces – it is quite apparent that the collision alarm was NOT sounded (or perhaps only after contact had been made). No amount of AIS reporting or radar training will correct that problem.

        What did the captain’s night orders say?

      • USNVO

        However, as has been reported from anonymous sources involved in the investigation (take that for what it is worth), including an unconfirmed report from the master of the container ship, both ships were proceeding roughly 090 and the container ship was overtaking to starboard before the course change to port which resulted in the collision. Neither ship maneuvered before the collision and the container ship was on autopilot and the crew was unaware what had happened for over 25 minutes. That throws all of the analysis out the window as would anyone looking at a chart as his assumption for the DDGs likely course sends it straight toward shoal water and makes no sense

        Now, if those reports are true, as the container ship was getting pretty close to CPA on the starboard beam and probably inside 2000yds or so, the container ship altered course to port towards its next navigation waypoint. Since the DDG was the stand on vessel, the DDGs bridge team wasn’t paying attention to the other ship and just stood on. The lookouts didn’t report it because the bridge had already seen it and it had been overtaking for the last hour or so. The course change was pretty minor and the aspect change would have been pretty subtle as well. The CIC team probably ignored it because it was already very close and no one expected the ship to turn. They were focused out further. Not to mention the DDG was the stand on vessel. When, if ever, anyone noticed it was too late.

        While the actual situation will come out in due course, the “anonymous source close to the investigation” explanation seems to fit the evidence most closely. Plenty of blame to go around here but if the reports are accurate, the container ship has the greatest share of it. Of course, for that very reason, they may not be accurate, we will have to wait and see.

        • TMA 89


          Very interesting update regarding those anonymous sources (which I would tend to believe in this instance), and then you make good points.

          I can believe your scenario, including the angle of collision being much less than 90 but still resulting in the evident damage.

          One mystery in any scenario is how the damage was somewhat focused — it doesn’t appear that either ship ran along the length of the other. Or maybe Crystal’s bulbous bow did run along Fitzgerald’s hull from amidships impact to her bow.) Somehow they came together and then separated, possibly also due to Fitzgerald’s maneuverability during and after the collision.

          Actually even the 80 degree angle of collision I was using was a bit of a mystery because at such an extreme angle Crystal might have passed right through Fitzgerald. So, I can see how something shallower makes sense.

          The shallower angle does suggest however, as you noted, that they were running alongside for much longer.

          (Part of my motivation for the closer-to-90-degree angle was the apparent lack of reaction of each ship to the other, as if they hadn’t been near each other before colliding.)

          A shallower angle and more time in proximity does further deepen the twin mysteries of (a) how unaware Crystal had to be not to react to Fitzgerald’s presence and even to turn toward her and (b) how Fitzgerald could have been surprised by a ship that they definitely had to have known was there for a long time (at least 20-30 minutes).

          But, if Fitzgerald thought Crystal was aware of her, while Crystal really was more of a ghost ship (as also has been suggested in witness reports) whose autopilot then steered here 15 degrees closer to Fitzgerald, well, then that’s tragic but believable.

          The hero in that scenario would have been the CIC console operator, lookout, random crew on deck, JOOD or OOD who noticed Crystal suddenly closing from close aboard starting about 01:17, 12 minutes before the collision, to give warning for Fitzgerald to sound an alarm and maneuver in time.

          Thanks for posting

          • USNVO

            There are several pieces of evidence that argue for a shallow angle of impact. Here’s my interpretation which is completely non-scientific.
            1. The bow bulwark of the containership is only damaged on the port side. If it was a straight hit, it would have hit the pilothouse and the bow and starboard side would be damaged as well..Argues for a glancing blow hitting the bridgewing.
            2. The damage to the deckedge of the DDG is clearly from the quarter. It is pushed in until it hits a frame when it stops. Look at the bow of the containership, lots of damage on port, very little to starboard. Matches perfectly if you place it as say 150 degree angle of impact.
            3. Low impact speed is evident by the localized nature of the damage. The deck edge is pushed back but not broken. Sure, it is HY80 at the join but if it had been near 90 degrees we are talking about 20,000 tons of mass (the majority of the reports on the ship size list grt or Gross Registered Tons which is a measure of enclosed cargo space (120cubic feet per grt) for tax purposes, not mass.) at 18kts The container ship was pretty high in the water so my guess is more like 20,000dwt, still a lot and the damage would be way greater.
            4. Number of compartments flooded argue for a glancing blow. The DDG appears pretty close to the margin line, so something like 15pct of the hull was opened up based on the design criteria of the ship. At least two compartments and maybe more, I am not real familiar with the DDG compartment arrangement. A glancing blow does less damage overall but it is over a greater length. Think Titanic as opposed to Andrea Doria.
            5. Finally, the fact the damage is localized to just one spot. The bows hit and were pushed apart. The DDG would not change course a lot but the bow of the container ship would be pushed right and probably bent pushing the bow further right. The autopilot puts in left rudder to compensate and keeps the stern of the ships from hitting again. If they had hit at a more right angle, it would have had significant damage down the side as the ships slid past each other.

    • WAW67

      TMA 89 – I’ve been following the extensive comments and analysis of the collision throughout the web and have not seen a better assessment of what likely took place than this one – that you so clearly and concisely presented. Of course it will be months before the public will hear anything official, but as a “been there SWO” myself I think your analysis makes so much sense and I would not be surprised if you nailed it right here.

  • Jm

    Funny to watch the government try to sweep this incompetence under the rug. Nobody is talking about this fiasco.

  • the Dysfunctional Veteran

    Clearly, the Crystal was on autopilot and nobody on the Bridge- Strike One. The Fritz, basic Rules of the Road for Navigation were violated (i.e.- not giving way to a larger ship in the same lane)- Strike Two, and NONE of the AT LEAST 10 people on watch in various postings on the ship between the Bridge and the Combat Information Center (CIC) failed to maintain “Situational Awareness”- Strike Tree… they’re out and now 7 sailors are dead. I am a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer, so I know of what I am speaking. That’s why this is becoming “back page news”- once again, the Navy has ANOTHER problem they are going to try to cover-up and dilute ala USS Iowa Turret Explosion… sad. Very sad….

    • Gen. Buck Turgidson

      Unbelievable to this old vet,,

    • wfraser11

      No one on the bridge??? You don’t know that dysfunction

    • waveshaper1

      I believe all the Burke-class destroyers are equipped with the new Integrated Video system (basically there are cameras/sensors all over the ship including inside the ships bridge). Hopefully these videos and sensors will help the investigator figure out what happened before, during, and after this collision.

    • William Blankinship

      The USS Iowa incident came to my mind also. I hope and pray this is not repeated.
      William– Navy veteran 1963-67

      • Kenneth Millstein

        I agree with you that the Captain of the Fitzgerald should be exonerated of any responsibility for the collision, even if he is always on duty and is responsible at all times for whatever happens aboard ship in port or out to sea.

        As for the Iowa, as I remember the Captain was held responsible and suffered some form of punishment for the explosion of one of the forward 16″ gun turrets. I have to say as a former Quartermaster aboard two different Destroyers it was my duty to have the Captain sign the night orders to declare what the ship should be doing when he was in his stateroom sleeping. Tradition never ceases aboard U.S. Navy ships.

        Kenneth–Navy veteran 1966-1972.

        • William Blankinship

          The Navy tried to blame a young gunners mate but later found out it was the powder bags. It is impossible for a Captain be on the bridge 24/7. The OOD is the one responsible for this . (I think I have my terminology correct , this old 72 old brain does not always get the details correct.) So sorry this happened. I am retired from Bell Helicopter and made one trip to Dahlgren,VA in 1995 testing one of our helicopters. This is where the Navy has tested the big guns for many years.
          Freedom is never free. Thank you for your service Kenneth.
          William Blankinship — Commander American Legion Post 293 Rusk,Texas

          • Kenneth Millstein

            Mr. Blankinship, I very much appreciate your thanking me for my service. Your reply has caused me to remember the specific events regarding the explosion aboard the Iowa. You are correct about the Navy’s investigation about the incident. At first they tried to pin the blame on the young gunners mate as a revenge situation claiming that the young man purposely tried to blow up the 16″ gun mount as a gay payback situation. The young gunners mats who was involved in the explosion (I saw him on Larry King’s CNN cable show to explain his position as not being gay) was later exonerated for two reasons. First he was NOT gay and second as you wrote the powder bags were of WWII vintage and were very unstable.

            However, as I explained in my first reply to you, the ships Captain is always responsible for the conduct of his ship even when he is asleep . When the Captain signs the night orders, that is his official communication to the OOD regarding the handling of the ship RE: what courses to follow any maneuvers he would want to be carried out and so forth. A ships Captain is by far the most responsible position of any person in the armed forces. For example he could even be an enlisted man on a very small gunboat such as the small river boats that were used extensively in Vietnam. The Captain of any vessel gives a new meaning to the word “boss”.

            I suspect even though the Captain of the Fitzgerald was grievously injured he might still suffer some form of punishment because of his never ending total responsibility for his vessel. This Sea Captain’s total responsibility goes back for many hundreds of years.

            I am certain that your work at Bell Helicopter might have provided some knowledge that impacted on our armed forces, so thank you for your service.

            Stay well, Respectfully, Kenneth Millstein

          • William Blankinship

            My Navy service was as an Aviation Electronics Technician in a A4 Skyhawk squadron. I left the Navy after 4 years of service when I was 22. I worked HF radio on an Apollo tracking ship in the Atlantic 67-68. More sea time as a civilian than Navy. I worked in Vietnam for the Army in 1971 for one year. I have a love for the Navy and the men and women who serve. Navy Captains do hold a very unique and special position. I do recall a young Naval officer in 1908 who ran aground in a destroyer. He was court marshaled but remained in the Navy. Many years later he was 5 star Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz. Now no one died in that incident and not much damage was done.

          • Kenneth Millstein

            Wow! That’s a fantastic bit of information, thank you. Do you recall the story of the Cruiser, USS Indianapolis. The ship had just delivered the Atom Bomb material to Tinnian Island in July,1945 and after it departed it was sunk by a Japanese Submarine and several sailors died, About 700 survived and were in the Pacific for several days and most were attacked and killed by sharks. A few survived and as did the Captain who was full four stripe Captain. He was Court Marshaled and disgraced and for several years after he suffered from a great deal of depression and in about 1954 he committed suicide. Several years later a young boy of about 10 heard about this story and spent something like six years lobbying people and even Congress on behalf of the Captain to re-institute the Captains reputation. He succeeded and had the Captains reputation restored.

            If not for this young boy the Captain would have forever been disgraced. He was in no way responsible for the sinking. By the way the Navy called the Captain of the Japanese Submarine to testify at the Court Marshall and he testified that the sinking could not have been prevented. That should show you how far the U.S. Navy would go to make a Captain completely responsible and cover their own a–. Actually the ship was not listed as being late to arrive in the Philippines for about a week. Only after about eight days did they finally send out search planes to look for survivors which included he Captain.

            The Captains name was and is Charles Butler McVay, III and he came from a family of Navy men. The Navy disgraced itself and should be embarrassed about the treatment of the Captain. How could they have ever have called the Captain of a enemy Submarine to testify. They located him in Japan and flew him to the U.S. to testify. DISGRACEFUL!!! Again, thank you for your service.

          • William Blankinship

            I have read some on the USS Indianapolis and recently saw the movie. The movie was excellent but did have some Hollywood embellishment in it. My father in law was a young seaman with the merchant marine in 1943-45. He made a couple of trips to north Africa and Italy after we took it. He then went on a gasoline tanker to the South Pacific. They were actually Army ships and called Y class tankers with numbers not names. I asked if he ever saw any japs or was shot at. He said not and he doubted they would waste a torpedo on those old boats.:-) He came home in late 1945 and got drafted and sent to Japan after the war. I asked what did you do over there. He said worked in the mail room. 🙂

          • Kenneth Millstein

            Mr. Blankinship, I saw a documentary on the sinking of the USS Indianapolis as well as one about Captain McVay. They both were very sad. I just can’t imagine what those men went through. I told you about the Indianapolis to see if you understood what can happen to a the Captain of a vessel regardless of circumstance.

            Your father in law certainly had a dangerous calling being in the Merchant Marine service. The North Atlantic convoy’s between North America and Britain or Murmansk, in the Soviet Union were as dangerous as almost any other duty in WWII. Thousands of Merchant seaman were killed or survived a U-Boat torpedoing and then died before they could be rescued. Being on a gasoline tanker in the Pacific speaks for itself as to the dangers. He was a hero. It’s amazing that after the war he was drafted and then was posted to “post” war Japan. No pun intended. Thankfully, he survived the war to have a daughter that you met and married. I hope you and your wife are doing well and I must say it has been a pleasure conversing with you. I wish you the best of luck and a long and wonderful life. With respect, Kenneth Millstein

          • Denny in Dayton

            The biggest navy scapegoating that comes to my mind was done to the captain of the Indianapolis during WWII.

          • William Blankinship

            Very true. The Navy gave him no support. He biggest mistake was not doing the zig zag course.

    • Kevin Jones

      The Crystal was on course 90 and made a change to 70. From the damage on the crystal it looks like it hit about at that angel. The master on the crystal said that he was behind and sailing parrell so his statement seems to fit. (That is before he walked off the bridge before the course change). The crystal must have been in the range of fitzgerald captain’s standing orders to wake him for some time. Perhaps it was inexperience that caused the bridge watch to pay attention to contacts in the rear.

      • USNVO

        That and the fact that the container ship was already very close when it maneuvered to port, likely at 2000yds or less. So CIC thought the Bridge had it and the Bridge was looking further out since they were the stand on vessel and had already reported the contact to the CO, although they should have been paying attention. Detecting a shallow turn in the dark with multiple contacts and background lighting has to be tough for the aft lookout.

      • Pieter Cronje

        Note WAN HAI 266 was to the port side of USS Fitzgerald. Sailing parallel to ACX Crystal with USS Fitzgerald sandwiched.
        When ACX Crystal A/C to 070 then minutes later WAN HAI also A/C to 070.
        It seems that USS Fitzgerald does NOT change course and stays on track…..

    • I wouldn’t say that there was “clearly” no one on the bridge of the Crystal. First of all, we just don’t have enough information to make that determination at this distance. My guess is that they were on watch but paying more attention to the AIS/ECDIS display than the radar and their night vision was compromised by the display consoles in front of the bridge windows. With the Fitzgerald running with their AIS off she didn’t show up on that display. If there were a lot of background lights (something else we don’t know) the mate on the ship might not have easily seen the Fitzgerald with their limited night vision. This does not excuse the crew but it raises good questions.

      I attended a electronic navigation conference many years ago that invited professional mariners, owners and equipment makers to exchange views on bridge equipment. One of the biggest requests from deck officers was for the AIS, ECDIS (electronic charts) and radar to be combined on one display so that targets could be identified quickly and more easily tracked. Importantly, such a display would instantly show a target that was not broadcasting on AIS. It would also be quickly obvious when the GPS was not working since the radar picture of the land mass would be different from the ECDIS picture. These displays exist but are not widely installed due to conflicting requirements and cost issues.

      If the investigation shows my guesses are correct it might be time to take a closer look at the integration of bridge electronics and their placement and design. It is always easy to blame the people, but sometimes we need to ask ourselves whether about the human factors design? Are we putting them in a situation where such accidents are partially caused by inattention to how people actually work in real life.

      As for the Fitzgerald… I have no idea what was going on there.

    • MarlineSpikeMate

      Clearly no one on the bridge? As both a merchant marine officer and naval officer, I find that comment amusing and interesting. Could you please explain how you clearly came to that conclusion?

    • kapena16

      What an incredibly stupid comment. You don’t know jack about civilian ship bridge operations. Don’t pretend you do. We see right thru that BS.

  • All the arm chair navigators miss one important point, Fitzgerald survived and the question is why? 1. Great damage control, 2. Training, not giving up, 3. Leadership up and down the chain, 4. Robust design of ship, and MOST IMPORTANT, 5. US NAVY pride, save the ship and save your shipmates. Bottom line, Well Done shipmates and my prayers for those that are now on their eternal cruise. From what I have read PO1 Rehm should, at a minimum, be promoted posthumously to Chief Petty Office. Also the Captain delegates the authority to the officer of the deck but it dose not negate his overall responsibility. Fitzgerald was in an established shipping lane, all watches manned and dose not seem to be a situation where the commanding officer is required to be on the bridge 27/7. Again well done shipmates. MMCS(SW) USN Ret.

    • Toy Pupanbai

      They have to lose a point, when an agile warship doesn’t avoid a collision with a slow moving mountain?

    • wfraser11

      Ken. WELL. We’re all certainly thankful YOU’RE not an arm chair navigator !! Oh wait.

    • ADM64

      Also, it appears that Fitzgerald was not struck directly (i.e. at a 90 degree angle). Had that been the case, she would almost certainly have sunk regardless of any of these other factors.

    • bluewaternavy


  • As a reminder to our readers, please be civil and respectful as we continue to learn about the events surrounding the collision of USS Fitzgerald and ACX Crystal. Information about the collision is still limited and comments that are deemed meanspirted or unhelpful to the understanding of the incident will be deleted with neither explanation nor apology.

  • Gen. Buck Turgidson

    Career ending,,next on the “career ending items ” website…include the XO and the Od,,”No Commo”? cell phones?

    • Zero

      Cell phones don’t work out that far. There should be a sat phone on board but that could have been lost in the chaos.

  • bridgebuilder78

    Ships on the port side have the maritime right-of-way, and the fact the Fitzgerald was struck on the port side indicates that ACX Crystal had the right-of-way. And since naval ships do not broadcast their locations as civilian ships do, naval ships must always be on the lookout to avoid potential collisions and navigate safely, especially at night. Unless other facts come to light, I think Fitzgerald’s bridge crew screwed the pooch on this one.

    • P. Greaney

      The Fitzgerald was struck on the starboard side

    • TMA 89

      Clearly Fitz was struck on her starboard (righthand, for any lubbers out there) side.

      The bottom line is likely that Crystal was not maintaining a lookout sufficient to see Fitz, so Crystal is automatically in the wrong (“burdened” or not), was violating her duty as either stand-on or give-way vessel (regardless) by slowly turning left and exacerbating either scenario, and then the issue is why Fitz didn’t take action (as she surely could have, being both faster when needed and much more maneuverable).

      See also my earlier post regarding why Fitz may not have taken action and graphic as to how and why Crystal was turning left toward Fitz.

      • “The bottom line is likely that Crystal was not maintaining a lookout sufficient to see Fitz”. I don’t think we can see the bottom line yet. Way too early. It is also tragically apparent that the lookouts on the Fitz were not performing at a high level either.

  • Susan Heirborne

    Last time I knew, the “right” side of the ship is starboard, not port – not sure why people are saying port. If The Fitzgerald was struck on the starboard side, does that impact the right-of-way issue? It appears to me that the Crystal was the overtaking vessel, also, as the damage to her was on the port side. So unfortunate, and I agree that all need to be sensitive to the affected parties, including the crew of the Crystal. Even if they were all asleep and the ship on autopilot, I wouldn’t want to know I’d been negligent and caused 7 horrible deaths.

    • TMA 89

      Clearly Fitz was struck on her starboard (righthand, for any lubbers out there) side.

      The bottom line is likely that Crystal was not maintaining a lookout sufficient to see Fitz, so Crystal is automatically in the wrong (“burdened” or not), was violating her duty as either stand-on or give-way vessel (regardless) by slowly turning left and exacerbating either scenario, and then the issue is why Fitz didn’t take action (as she surely could have, being both faster when needed and much more maneuverable).

      See also my earlier post regarding why Fitz may not have taken action and graphic as to why Crystal was turning left toward Fitz.

      Also, if someone really was responsible for, or even contributed to, the deaths of 7 people, one can only hope that person actually would want to know. But I agree that it would be better to find out definitively and without speculation. Maybe that was the intended point.

  • RobM1981

    Dear Potential Foe,
    A single hit to the superstructure of a Burke will render it unable to communicate, and largely blind/deaf.

    Yes, the hull is large for a destroyer, but we couldn’t or wouldn’t find the space for any kind of distribution for these functions.

    Just thought you’d want to know,
    The US Navy

    Accidents happen, folks. The key takeaways here aren’t about the rules of the road. Those issues will be addressed. The takeaways are “how does our primary surface combatant handle this kind of damage – damage that is not as extreme as many combat scenarios would produce?”

    Right now I’m not overly impressed with the ship. The sailors, on the other hand, once again demonstrate that the US Navy is staffed by the best trained, best led, and best motivated men and women in the world. The Fitzgerald looks like it was hit by a suicide plane, 1945.

    • “US Navy is staffed by the best trained, best led, and best motivated men and women in the world.” I would agree with respect to the damage control efforts. The bridge watch, not so much.

      • RobM1981

        good point

  • flowerplough

    One hard hit and every radio on the destroyer ship is dead? Please say it ain’t so. Please tell me our daughters and sons aren’t sent to sea so weak. This is looking a bit like the mechanical/navigational failures on the river patrol boat that surrendered to Iran last year.

    • wilkinak

      This is looking like massive human error. The DC team did a great job – the ship is still floating. I’ve stood bridge watches; a cargo ship like the Crystal has fewer lights than a cruise ship, but is lit up well beyond just it’s running lights. How the entire bridge team & lookouts missed this is beyond me. I’d love to see their track 2 minutes prior to impact.

    • USNVO

      No, but one hard hit that floods radio central gets rid of most the radios onboard. When it is near the bridge it probably disables the bridge equipment as well. So that leaves you with VHF handhelds, which someone has to think to break out, cellphones if you are close enough, or maybe the sattelite phones depending on how they are configured (sometimes the equipment is in radio, sometimes somewhere else and radio just has an extension). Not to make excuses for anyone, but all of those are not the normal way of doing things and there is a lot going on.

      • flowerplough

        “which someone has to think to break out”
        Officers are paid to think. Officers live to think. You give me 50 minutes, I’ll think of it. You’re making excuses for someone.

  • waveshaper1

    Here’s another similar collision that happened in 2012. The USS Porter collision with a supertanker (1:00 AM in the morning/heavy traffic shipping lane/Similar AIS track by the Supertanker/impact point on the USS Porter about 20 feet forward of where the USS Fitzgerald was hit, etc).

    Excerpt; 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. Etc, etc.

    • TMA 89

      Interesting example and sadly seems to point to one of the same root causes: challenge exceeding actual current ability regarding traffic avoidance (taking into account experience, fatigue, distractions, etc.). Also suggests a related point that there may not actually be a threshold at which the typical OOD is trained to conclude that there’s too much traffic and to alter the SOP by calling for extra help, slowing down, etc. (which may or may not have been the situation with Fitz & Crystal). It seems a given traffic situation, especially at a choke point, can become arbitrarily complex, but, unlike in aviation, there’s no controlling authority to throttle the total real time traffic (again, interesting, but not necessarily relevant last week).

    • Old Scope Dope

      I haven’t seen any comments about another disastrous collision that happen 48 years ago and resulted in 74 destroyer sailors and officers losing their lives. June 3, 1969 at 0300 the USS Frank Evans DD-754 was ordered to take the plane guard position astern of the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. There is at least one important similarity between what we know so far with the Fitzgerald and what happened to the Evans. The OOD on watch disobeyed the CO’s standing orders to wake him if there was any formation change. I am assuming the Fitzgerald CO had a similar requirement for the situation they sailed into.

      The Melbourne maneuvered to avoid the collision but the Evans OOD managed to perform exactly the wrong course of action by turning back into the path of the carrier and was “t-boned”. The Evans was cut in half. The forward section rolled over and sank in less than two minutes.

      I you want the details just do a search or go to Wikipedia.

      • bluewaternavy

        EVANS collision was you stated above, but my understanding is that OOD wasn’t properly qualified to stand the watch. MELBOURNE’s skipper was stiffed by the RAN

        • Old Scope Dope

          At best he was marginally able to handle the OOD responsibilities. He was in the watch rotation only because the ship was short of qualified OOD’s. To make matters worse the CONN officer was a junior officer with little experience. Both of them survived, as did the CO when his cabin was torn open by the collision and he had to squeeze out through a gash in the bulkhead.

          The Aussies initially did hold the MELBOURNE CO, Capt Stevenson, partially responsible but many years later the government formally apologized to him. The CO, OOD and CONN officers on the EVANS were all prosecuted by court martial and found guilty. The OOD and CONN officers were “moved down” on the promotion list and left the Navy. The CO received a letter of reprimand and stayed in until his retirement.

          • bluewaternavy

            Captain Stevenson (Stevo)actually resigned from RAN after he was posted to a billet unfitting his rank. He was finally given his pension later.

            I’d read about the Board of Inquiry chaired by Admiral King (USN) who was CO EVANS boss. It wasn’t done well.

            I remember seeing “I Relieve you, Sir” as a QMC, think its still often used,

            With shortage of OOD’s and with officer in question marginally able to handle watch, I’d think the CO wouldn’t be too keen on him being alone.

          • Old Scope Dope

            I spoke with some Academy midshipmen about 7 years ago and at the time they were still being shown “I Relieve You Sir”.

            I recently spent some time at the Bremerton Naval Shipyard and learned from one of the workers there that enlisted people can be qualified as underway OOD. He was a retired E-6 (I don’t remember what rating) and claimed to have the OOD qualification. That probably would have helped the EVANS if enlisted men were allowed to qualify as an OOD then.

          • bluewaternavy

            That ought to be shown forever-it’s one of the best training films the USN came up with. Still it could’ve gone further. I’m a mustang that was a QM in the old days- I qualified as OOD as a QM1. E-6 you spoke with was likely a QM or BM. Smaller vessels often have them.

            I’m a firm believer that get the best you have, officer and enlisted, and qualify them. More qualified is better.

            Most important thing as OOD or Conn is that if you have ANY doubt as to a situation, call the skipper-the Night Orders Book are to be taken as a Writ from God. QMOW of EVANS was said to have been worried about the CPA, but was afraid to say anything-that is another chain in the events that could’ve been broken.

          • Old Scope Dope

            One thing I have always wondered about was what recommendations were coming out of CIC. At the time of the collision was only about 5000 yards away onboard the USS KYES, DD-787. I was also an RD2 (OS2) and qualified watch supervisor. In my experience (full disclosure: I only served on two ships) no maneuvers took place without CIC making a recommendation for course and speed to take. I read the investigation/court report and there was nothing about CIC making any such recommendations. Everyone in CIC died during the collision.

            Relating my experience to the FITZGERALD it strikes me as very strange that we don’t already know more about exactly what happened that night. A couple of hours after the EVANS collision (all hands were ordered to man the rails and look for survivors in the water) I went to our CIC. Just by reading the radio logs and reviewing the DRT (surface) plot it was obvious the EVANS had messed up. With all of the digital information systems on an Aegis ship – including the automatic recording that must be happening constantly – the Navy must know.

  • Kenneth Millstein

    I looked at the photo’s of the sailors who very sadly lost their lives and I said to myself, there but for the grace of God go I. One of the sailors looked just like I did when my official photo was taken back in 1966 when I started to serve in the U.S. Navy. I hope the injured Captain and crew members recover quickly and can once again proudly serve aboard the Fitzgerald once repairs are completed.

    As for the deceased sailors “may they rest in peace”.

  • Sir_JayR

    My armchair analysis suggest that because:
    1. of the difference in initial reported local time of the collision;
    2. they were T-Boned;
    3. the Captain was asleep in his cabin:
    the Fitzgerald did not know their true position(wrong time zone??), were in a relaxed steaming mode and unaware that they were trans-versing a heavily traveled shipping lane.

    My prayers go out to the families of those killed, …and for all the sailors out there, afraid to go to sleep at night.

  • lano

    lets have a hypo i am in a car crash one person down and bleeding, me up and able my my if i wait an hour maybe this will go away! i dont think so! i do not think all of the humans and machines involved were to dumb to call for help asap!

  • Karen Bayer

    Um, excuse me — Why did this happen if there was a world-class radar system onboard that can sense even the flap of a fish! What’s going on here!

  • steamshovel2002

    Does anyone remember the Navy investigation on the shipyard fire with the USS Miami SSN 755. It destroyed the sub. The first swing at it blamed embers in a vacuum cleaner without any evidence. The Navy in sent out a emergency warning to the whole fleet saying vacuum cleaners are dangerous. An aberrant ship yard employee set fire to a stateroom bedding.

  • MarlineSpikeMate

    The naval vessels bridge is equipped with battery powered VHF radios. I see no reason they could not have been used. Those same radios are also equipped with digital selective calling (DSC) for destress as well. Plenty of traffic around and close enough to shore to reach many people with VHF on channel 16 in the same way the ACX did.

  • janssen86

    “In addition to the damage to the spaces, the collision knocked out Fitzgerald’s communications for the better part of an hour. At about the same time the crew was able to reactivate their backup Iridium satellite communications to radio for help, Crystal arrived on the scene and called in its own distress call.”

    A question: Doesn’t the Fitzgerald carry spare, even mobile, maritime VHF sets?

  • F.Pollard

    This situation requires us all to look beyond the obvious. Our trained service men have the ability to monitor everything around, below and above them. Environmental awareness is based on the advanced technology deployed. Is it possible that new scalier technology is being used? Why can’t we create an early warning system that allows critical system overrides to be implemented immediately??!! Again, this is way to obvious something is wrong…..

    • MarlineSpikeMate

      This is a training issue.. they have the technology. AIS and ARPA is very effective.

  • waveshaper1

    Here’s an example of what transpired on the bridge of the USS Porter during its collision with a supertanker. Hopefully, the investigators will get a chance to review the Audio tapes/ship’s logs/plus other data from both ships involved in this latest collision. The USS Porter (same type ship as the USS Fitzgerald) was T-Boned by a Supertanker in 2012, the Captain fired, and I believe a lawsuit was filed against the US Navy by the shipping company. The USS Porter collision happened at 1:00 AM in the morning/in a heavy traffic shipping lane/similar AIS track by the Supertanker as the ACX Crystal/impact point on the USS Porter about 20 feet forward of where the USS Fitzgerald was hit, etc.

    Excerpt; The audio from the Porter’s pilothouse, along with the ship’s logs from that night, provide a rare glimpse into the tense and confusing moments before impact.

    The recording and logs, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and first reported by the Navy Times, also reveal some of the decisionmaking that put the ship in danger.

    The Porter, five months into its deployment, had just cleared the strategic chokepoint leading to the Persian Gulf when it approached the first of two tankers heading in the opposite direction.

    The massive merchant vessel – nearly the size and twice the weight of an aircraft carrier – was showing two red port lights, the international sign warning other ships to stay clear.

    The standard move at that point, according to a retired Navy captain who reviewed the recording and logs with a Virginian-Pilot reporter, would have been to turn right, to starboard, to pass behind the ship.

    Instead, the Porter turned left, to port, to pass ahead of the vessel. It crossed so close to the tanker’s approaching bow, one officer suggested turning hard right while passing the ship – a rarely used maneuver intended to swing the Porter’s stern out of the way of potential impact.

    That’s when the Porter’s officer of the deck – the sailor in charge of directing all of the ship’s movements – became aware of the second tanker moving through the night.

    In the recording, the officer, whose name was redacted from the log, suggests playing it safe and turning right to pass behind the second vessel.

    The ship’s captain, Cmdr. Martin Arriola, who had returned to the bridge minutes earlier, dismisses the officer’s direction.

    “Why don’t we just go straight this way?” Arriola says in the recording, suggesting instead that the Porter stay the course and once again pass in front of an approaching ship.

    “I have, uh …” the officer begins, hesitates, then accepts the skipper’s direction. “Aye sir.”

    Seconds later, he speaks up: “Sir, I would like to slow down.”

    Arriola agrees, and the officer gives the order to slow from 20 knots down to 5 knots.

    Precious seconds pass.

    The hulking Japanese oil tanker Otowasan, lumbering at 14 knots, comes into clearer view. The officer of the deck looks out through windows on the bridge, located high above the main deck, and seems to grow concerned.

    “Sir, I have a port aspect on this guy,” the officer says, with urgency. “He’s crossing us, we need to act quickly, sir.”

    The officer suggests turning hard left, and the skipper agrees.

    “Hard left rudder!” Arriola bellows, then orders five short horn blasts, signaling danger. Seconds later, he orders the engines to full speed in an effort to clear the tanker’s path.

    “All engines ahead flank!” Arriola shouts. “Let’s go, get me up there, flank!”

    Five more horn blasts. The captain again shouts, “Left full rudder!”

    Then: Boom.

    Sailors can be heard shouting as the warship absorbs the blow, rolling 27 degrees before stabilizing. Water lines burst, showering and frying electrical systems.

    Fires break out and alarms sound.

    On the bridge, Arriola checks to ensure nobody is hurt. Then reality sets in.

    The officer of the deck mutters a bit of profanity.

    “We’ve been hit, port side,” he says, mistakenly stating that the impact came from the left.

    Miraculously, no one was seriously injured on either ship.

    The force of the tanker cut a gaping hole in the Porter’s starboard side and shook the 270 crew members on board.

    Rattled from their sleep, they worked through the night to battle small fires and repair broken water lines, the logs show.

    The dock landing ship Gunston Hall, which had been trailing the Porter, pulled alongside to take photos and assist in the recovery. SEALs from the ship were sent into the water to assess the damage, all of which occurred above the water line.

    • Denny in Dayton

      I had heard that audio, and initially wondered if that was what happened to the Fitzgerald. The Porter captain seemed to have what would best be described as hubris, he’s was so cocky of being faster than the tankers why slow down? Uh…because it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Trying to cut in front is an amateur move usually done by idiots on jetskis. I think the overtaking scenario fits better but time will tell.

  • Samuel Clemens

    We do not know the operational situation for this incident and likely won’t until official inquiries have concluded. That careers will end is almost certain, but an immediate issue of concern should be why were the ship communications so incredibly fragile? Damage to one area took out ALL external communications. Talk about a single point of failure that any enemy with half a brain could exploit. It suggest these ships would not last long under real combat. If these early reports are accurate (and they may not be), there are bigger issues than just one incident.

    • USNVO

      The radio room has always been largely a single point failure just like CIC, after steering, the stern tubes, etc? Nothing new here. The bridge has some radios that are independent of radio central but they probably lost power. Which leaves you with, maybe depending on configuration, INMARSAT/IRIDIUM or VHF handhelds. I understand they called in about an hour after the collision using an IRIDIUM phone but someone has to think of those and they were probably pretty busy keeping the ship afloat. As for exploiting it, I doubt it is a greater vulnerability than CIC where all the weapons control is located.

      • Samuel Clemens

        This is the age of the internet not World War II. It is a colossal failure of communications architecture to have such such a fundamental flaw in this age. One has to be surprised in peacetime that real-time Communications and tracking systems don’t have a better idea where these assets are at any one time. This is almost as bad a failure as the airline industry has done. You can be sure anything the Chinese are building these days will not suffer from such a fault. They know their comms stuff really really well and they don’t have 1945 technology thinking holding them back.

        • USNVO

          Well, then every navy in the world, including the Chinese Navy who know coomunications, have radio rooms and also CICs, after steering, and other single point failures.

          • Samuel Clemens

            That depends upon whether they have ever heard of the DARPA Internet protocols which after all gestated in the Pentagon’s desire to have nuclear war resistant communications reliability. The Internet is that rare thing among technical terms – it means what it says. If they have heard of routers, or bought one for their home or office use, they know how avoid a single point of communications failure. The Canadian Navy has been deploying frigates with LAN technologies since the 1980s. Retrofitting is pretty easy. If people can install gigabit ethernet at home, the Navy can find a way to install a military grade version of it. The COTS version alone would cost peanuts. Just what has the US military been spending $5+ trillion dollars per decade if not to use their own technologies now adopted around the world? Since China manufacturers the vast majority of routers, and in most cases they are starting over from scratch, I suggest they will not fail to use them fully. Similarly they will likely use integrated circuits rather than WWII vacuum tubes.

            You statement confuses user interfaces with functionality. A Navy ship has many, not just one water tight compartment. A Navy ship has many, not one fire fighting station. This is the same principle of segmentation. Furthermore a Navy ship has multiple life boats. Having redundant communications signals and internal networks makes the fighting effectiveness and survivablity far higher. An electronic or physical attacker has a much easier job if only one point needs to be subverted or to launch a denial of service attack phsysically or electronically. Loosing one area of the ship should not have rendered it entirely deaf and dumb. That is incredibly bad communications architecture – like not having water tight compartments would be.

  • Carol Caprio

    Who cares what the Cargo ship was doing ….A US naval warship, which can’t evade a 700′ long 40,000 ton ponderous, slow moving vessel is a disgrace!!!
    Isn’t the crew vigilant for terrorist in small speedboats ??? How do you miss this gargantuan ship closing towards you at a leisurely 12-15 knots???!
    The Captain is ultimately at fault and will certainly lose his command !

  • dantheman

    Sam we’re getting closer 2 the truth. I read a statement from Crystal’s CO that he made a left course correction, prior to the collision. If true, it implies he was burdened and not on auto. On the other hand, Crystal’s track (if post-collision) looks much like an auto-pilot situation. Much could be explained by mass confusion and panic, on both vessels. Many issues remain, the biggest being Fitzgerald’s CO in his sea cabin when his ship was “in extremis.”

  • Marjus Plaku

    Impressed the crew rebound from such a sudden traumatic event in the middle of the night to save the ship. Unfortunate they allowed the collision in the first place, but god job after that.

  • KenPrescott

    PO1 Rehm was a sailor to the end. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

  • Some questions the investigators should ask that might not get a lot of attention:
    1. What was the rudder/propeller relationship on the Fitzgerald? Is she one of those with one rudder located between the two propellers or was it two rudders, one behind each screw? Everyone assumes the Fitz was super maneuverable, but the single rudder configuration is not so responsive at slow speeds.
    2. What range setting were the Fitz’s/Crystal’s radars on? Supposedly both have excellent equipment but if they were set over 6 miles, 12 is likely, the picture close in is not so great. Radar tuning adjustments can make a big difference in these cases. I have boarded a lot of ships, a majority actually, that had radars poorly tuned for close work.

  • LX5

    “Investigators now think Crystal was transiting to Tokyo on autopilot with an inattentive or asleep crew”

    Press coverage seems to be trying to find blame with the crew of the Crystal. The USS Fitzgerald was designed to be difficult to spot, in particular the crew of the Crystal may have been responsibly monitoring radar, but Fitzgerald’s stealth design features and possibly EW features thwarted their and maybe their autopilot’s attempt to spot her. In short Crystal, even if she had a full compliment of crew responsibly doing their jobs, might have not seen Fitzgerald because Fitzgerald was designed to be hard to see.

  • Dave

    Reminds me of the carrier Melbourne slicing the destroyer Walke in half years ago. Front half sank losing over 70 souls sad day for all present.

    • Dave

      Sorry it was the Evans

  • ew_3

    “knocked out the destroyer’s communications for an hour”

    what a crock.

    A destroyer has so many ways to communicate it’s not possible. The little DE I served on had 20-30 communication devices. Plus the bridge can blast the horn, and the sig bridge could lite off what ever flares they have. Suspect because of that location they could have used cell phones.

    My guess is that they did not want to communicate for an hour.

    The USN is so political. I sailed with a LCdr, who off the Soviet coast he failed to report our IFF was not working. We kept calling bogeys when they were A4s.
    Finally the commodore on Intrepid got a little POed.

    This same LCdr went on to get 4 stars.

  • Steve Skubinna

    So assuming all of Fitzgerald’s comms were disabled, that still leaves a few questions. Does the ship have an Iridium phone? If not, why did nobody trigger the EPIRB? Does the ship have a commercial VHF radio with DSC?

    Still too many questions to draw any conclusions, and every new bit of information only brings up more.

  • Captain Pete

    The damage was far worse then I had imagined it. Taxpayers have lots of questions. Lots. We’re hoping for a full and transparent investigation into the collision. Condolences to the families of the sailors who lost their lives.

  • Jay Sigler

    Very sad all around. I see a movie coming with Tom Hanks.

  • David Witcraft

    As citizens, we are all stakeholders in the Navy and it’s assets. Even armchair mariners have a right to criticize. First, no one is criticizing the seamanship of the brave sailors who kept the ship afloat and reportedly saved many of their shipmates. We are justifiably less generous in our praise, however, of the OOD(Officer of the Deck) who allowed this to happen. It will be months before we hear what the lookouts saw, what they relayed and when, but the OOD is responsible for seeing that stuff like this doesn’t happen. That freighter never should have been within 5000 yards of the naval ship. There was a fundamental breakdown of control, communication and seamanship which needs to be understood and rectified, otherwise, adversaries will start weaponizing cargo ships!

    Lastly, the seven brave sailors who perished did nothing to deserve their fate. Their service should be regarded as distinguished and I hope they are interred with full honors. Their families deserve an explanation of what occurred and assurance that their sacrifice will never be repeated. We understand that our service members go in harms way, daily, but to lose such members to clear negligence is unacceptable and must be corrected. RIP, Fitzgerald 7, your sacrifice will be honored.

  • pto

    One thing of interest and concern here is the apparent course change by the ACX Crystal towards the path of the USS Fitzgerald immediately before the collision. It appears from the more detailed maps I’ve seen that the ACX Crystal set a collision course towards the path of the Fitzgerald within a couple hundred yards. There was likely very little time for the crew of the USS Fitzgerald to react.

  • Tom Wood

    Where was the skipper at time of collision? Appears “in his cabin” may refer to his in port cabin..Don’t remember sea cabins having wood look laminated hatches with large prior CO plaques attached and a CO of little more than a month already on sea cabin hatch- normal on in port cabin. Also cabin photo shows total cabin destruction. The exterior photos look as if the bridge/ pilothouse/ normal sea cabin deck fairly intact. Was the skipper in sea cabin, or in port cabin?- underway, at night, in a heavy traffic area?

    • dantheman

      Does it make a difference? Either way he wasn’t on the bridge. It’s difficult 2 understand how the entire vessel was unaware of an impending collision. Lots of folks saying Fitzgerald was negligent; I’m not buying it. We already know Crystal’s CO is lying about his “hard turn to starboard ten minutes prior.”

      • Tom Wood

        Sure it makes a difference, whether deck watchstander only has to take a couple of paces to open door to sea cabin and say “Captain, we need you on the bridge” – or hesitates to send messenger down a deck or two to relay message to Captain in his inport cabin (which apparently was the one that was partially crushed)…

        • TommyD

          The BMOW picks up the 1MC and passes the word. “Captain to the Bridge”
          The only time I witnessed that happening in the middle of the night the CO was standing on the bridge in his robe in under 10 seconds..

          • Tom Wood

            Same experience here, not so sure whether “modern day” bridge watch section would react in the same manner. Still quicker if skip in sea cabin..

          • TommyD

            The fact that the CO was not on the bridge but in his cabin says to me the Fitz had little to no heads up of the situation.

          • Tom Wood

            Normally, your assumption should be correct- normally should be right in this instance. This collision so un-normal, I can’t make that assumption yet for other than the skipper, who was asleep, and in the damaged stateroom.

  • Pete Pierce

    We can all only hope that with a bevy of USNA MIDN’s on board that there wasn’t some kind of slap party going on on the bridge.