Home » Budget Industry » USS Fitzgerald Set to Enter Dry Dock Later This Month, Patch Work Ongoing to Fix Hull Breach

USS Fitzgerald Set to Enter Dry Dock Later This Month, Patch Work Ongoing to Fix Hull Breach

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

THE PENTAGON — The guided-missile destroyer that was struck by a container ship off of Japan last month is set to enter dry dock in Yokosuka later this month, and work to patch the massive hole in the side of the hull is ongoing, a U.S. 7th Fleet spokesman told USNI News on Wednesday.

The move of USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) from its pier at Yokosuka to the nearby dry dock comes after several weeks of pier-side repairs to patch a ragged hole where the bulbous bow of the merchant ship ACX Crystal tore through the side of the ship on June 17.

“USS Fitzgerald is getting ready to enter dry dock on Fleet Activities Yokosuka this month, where it will conduct follow-on inspections and repairs,” Cmdr. Clay Doss told USNI News on Wednesday.
“An ammo offload was completed June 25. Additional preparations include dewatering, defueling and temporary patch installation on the hull. Once the ship is docked, technical assessments will commence that will inform options to conduct long-term repairs.”

The container ship ripped a 12-foot-by-17-foot hole in the starboard side of Fitzgerald below the waterline and flooded three major compartments in the ship, which resulted in the death of seven sailors.

A Navy official told USNI News on Wednesday the repair teams at U.S. 7th Fleet faced a difficult challenge patching the hole, since it was larger than existing hull patch kits. Crews had to cobble together enough material to plug the hole in the side of the ship before it could be safely transferred to the dry dock in Yokosuka.

Soon after the destroyer arrived in Yokosuka after being hit by the merchant ship, damage control teams discovered the impact of Crystal not only caved in the hull and smashed the superstructure but also twisted the ship, one sailor told USNI News at the time. The damage required sailors to keep pumping water in and out of the ship to keep the hull stable.

When the ship is stable enough to be relocated to the dry dock, the Navy will determine if the ship will be repaired in Japan or relocated to the West Coast for repairs.

In addition to the damage below the waterline, the ship’s superstructure and AN/SPY-1D(v) radar were severely damaged in the collision. It’s yet unclear how much additional equipment will be found to be inoperable and need to be replaced, but the total could easily tally into the tens of millions.

Fitzgerald was set to undergo a planned mid-life modernization in Fiscal Year 2019 that would have upgraded the hull, mechanical and electrical systems of the destroyer, USNI News has learned. It’s unclear if the planned modernization will factor into the schedule of repairs on the destroyer.

While the Navy is wrestling with repairing the ship, several investigations into the collision are ongoing.

Last month, the Navy announced Rear Adm. Brian Fort, formerly the commander of USS Gonzalez (DDG-66) and Destroyer Squadron 26, will head up the Navy’s Manual of the Judge Advocate General (JAGMAN) investigation into the collision.

Fort, who was promoted to flag rank earlier this year, is currently serving as the commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, according to the notice of his promotion in late May.

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Categories: Budget Industry, Foreign Forces, News & Analysis, Surface Forces, U.S. Navy
Sam LaGrone

About Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.

  • muzzleloader

    Although it is a grim prospect, one has to wonder in light of the massive damage the ship sustained, is if the price of full repairs is cost effective. Considering the damage to the hull and superstructure, could not a lot of the machinery and weapons systems be installed in a new hull?

    • Tom Wood

      If by twisted the ship, the article is referring to a twisted or bent keel, doubt she can be salvaged, except for parts.

      • DaSaint

        This will be interesting to watch. Most likely it can be repaired, as long as the price tag comes in at under $500 million. My bet is it gets placed on a heavy-lift ship and is sent back to Bath. It could also go to Hawaii or the West Coast as mentioned, but if past is prelude, it goes back to the shipbuilder.

        • Tom Wood

          hope you’re right..

        • EngineerDad1

          That’s what happened with Cole when she was bombed in Yemen. I expect that you’re right about it heading for BIW. Also, Blue Marlin, the ship that carried Cole, was in the general Japan/China area recently.

      • If you look at the pictures of the ship as it was towed to yokuska it is obvious the keel was broke. Look at the bend in the ship on the side views. The hole was only 12′ feet X 15′ feet. but the bulbous bow may have extended 1/2 way into the ship. They are now putting massive amounts of JB Weld into the hole but it may not be enough to fix the keel.

      • Duane

        It comes down to dollars and time, but there is no doubt even if the keel is broken or twisted, it can be repaired.

        Heck, in World War Two we had numerous ships that were either sunk in shallow water (such as at Pearl Harbor) or nearly sunk or mostly burned out hulks in bluewater battle, that were towed back stateside and rebuilt and returned to service, ships much larger than the Fitz.

        • David Claude Warlick

          My father flew bullet-ridden airplanes during WWII. When he landed at Hickam on his way home, his airplane was grounded. He took a boat home. Whether the Fitzgerald can be repaired will be a political as well as economic decision.

      • One intangible factor in the scrap-vs-fix discussion is the fact the USS Fitzgerald was not battle damaged, but instead crushed due to an embarrassing mistake by both crews. Compare this to the terrorist attack on the USS Cole, whose recovery and return to service was a matter of national pride and not just dollars and strategic considerations. Scrapping the Cole would have been interpreted as American retreat and defeat. Not so with Fitzgerald. Some may prefer the Fitz to fade away.

        • ernestoz

          Old Flt I DDG, let her go, better uses for the money.

  • RunningBear

    ….gee!, get it on the drydock and “then” determine by physical assessment what the path forward could be and should be.

    My grandma has a wheelchair but she is not a racecar driver, either.

    Get the facts, make the right decision, maybe the sun won’t come up tomorrow!

    Ha! 🙂

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    Have the incompetents who couldn’t detect or evade a freighter been hung yet?

    • Marcd30319

      Rushing to judgement, Kitty?

      • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

        Your right Marc.
        Either the freighter appeared out of thin air or US navy vessels have no means to detect other ships around them.

        A capability they should consider having, wouldn’t you agree?

        • Marcd30319

          Right, you were on the bridges of both ships and you know what went on. So it is really your fault. What is your choice — firing squad or poison?

          Now that we have shown the error of jumping to conclusions, I recommend that we assume nothing until all of the investigations are concluded.

          To convict before a trial or even an investigation is done is downright un-American.

        • tim

          … while I understand Kitty and Anti-Kitty, one must wonder why we have not been given a time line of the tracks from both ships. No preliminary, objective information in a case that is so puzzling.

        • Owl

          Radar is not all-mighty. It does not tell you what the other party is going to do.

          I know of another case of a collision with a freighter, what happened in that case was when both ships saw they were on a collision course, they both veered off….in the same direction. Then they saw they were still going to collide and swerved the other way. Both of them. That was all the time they had before collision.

          It’s a very different environment out at sea. There is absolutely no light for miles around, even your own ship is dark to help preserve your night vision. What the watchstanders are looking out for are little dots of navigation light that indicate another ship, easy to miss if your attention slips, expecially if your watch is hours long where nothing happens. A human attention span can only remain fully alert for about an hour, then your attention wavers when nothing happens.

          BTW radar is not really real time either, it depends on their ‘refresh rate’, i.e how often they ‘sweep’ their sector. IIRC, the SPY-1 has a refresh rate of one rotation per minute.

          This is why trials are done by ‘jury of their peers’. An outsider can have little or no knowledge of these things and just wing it by their often incorrect impression..

          • publius_maximus_III

            Vector math says you can determine a collision course by taking a bearing on the intersecting vessel. If two bearings taken at different moments in time are the same, you are not only on an intersecting course, you are on a collision course.

            Working backward from the collision point, the length of each ship’s vector represents the distance (speed multiplied by time) to impact, the angle of each vector represents the course. A line joining the ends of the two vectors completes a triangle, and represents the bearing of one vessel relative to the other at a given point in time. Each triangle is larger the greater the time before collision. Each triangle is geometrically similar, hence the requirement of two identical bearings at different points in time to predict a collision.

          • Owl

            Don’t forget, you’re moving too. The constant bearing method works if you’re stationary but if you’re moving, then the bearing to the target will also change from your motion.

          • publius_maximus_III

            Both vectors include speed. It works, trust me, Mariners have used this trick for centuries.

            If you are moving and you take two different bearings on another moving object and the readings are Identical, then according to vector math there are only two possible explanations:

            (1) you are on parallel courses and identical speed, or
            (2) you are on a collision course.

            Read my post again.

          • Trh

            Your first post was wrong. Your second post was better, but still not accurate. If there is a speed difference between the two ships, there are multiple scenarios where they can maintain the same bearing but not be on a collision course (ship directly in front on the same course but faster speed; constant bearing but no collision).

            Most certainly if another ship is maintaing constant bearing but decreasing range, the two are going to collide.

          • publius_maximus_III

            @Trh, My first post describes exactly what your second paragraph states.

            The length of each vector is determined by a given point in time, say ten minutes and five minutes prior to collision, times each vessel’s constant speed. That multiplication yields different distances of each vessel from the pending point of collision, that distance being greatest for the fastest moving vessel. Both of my posts are correct. Read them again.

            If you do not understand vector math, then we are both wasting our time here. (Hint: the direction of the vector joining the ends of the two vectors representing the two ships’ courses is the bearing, it’s length is the range…)

          • trh

            Your “only two possible situations” is wrong. What about constant bearing but the range is increasing? Trust me, it happens.

          • publius_maximus_III

            (3) for the 1st trivial case of your vessel dead ahead or dead astern of a vessel with range decreasing, you are on a collision course,
            (4) for the 2nd trivial case of your vessel dead ahead or dead astern of a vessel and range increasing, you are safe and may go back to sleep,
            (5) for the 3rd trivial case of both vessels headed downstream on the Niagra River with a very loud roaring sound up ahead, you are both on a collision course, but not with each other.

            Trust, but verify.

          • Owl

            publius, my understanding of vectors matches with trh’s. You can get constant bearing even on a divergent course. Of course, the ship moving away has to be slightly faster but it is possible, constant bearing is no indicator of course.

            Just because you got constant bearing does not mean you’re dead astern. Easiest counter case is side by side but one ship is traveling 45 degrees away from the other at a higher speed (need paper to work out the speed difference which I can’t get at the moment but you can use Pythygora’s to do so, 2nd ship speed is square root of 1st ship’s speed squared x2). Your bearing will still be 90 degrees since the ships are still ‘side by side’ from the initial line, but they’re on diverging courses since the distance is increasing.

            The ‘error’ in your hypothesis is time. Ships on a constant bearing course might have collided ‘if they had reversed their course to the past’, but you can get on the course after the ‘collision point’ is over, hence you’re ‘diverging’ now.

          • publius_maximus_III

            Unfortunately, math is not a democracy. You two can agree until the cows come home, but I stand by everything I’ve stated previously.

            If two vessels are traveling at a constant speed (whether equal or different) and are on intersecting courses, and if an observer from one vessel determines the relative bearing of the other vessel is exactly the same at two different points in time, then they are on a collision course. It is really that simple. You don’t even need to know the range at those two points in time, which is the real beauty of this simple technique.

            Now if either vessel changes its speed or course, all bets are off. That is usually what happens (to avoid a collision).

          • trh

            This is the third time you’ve said something different. You first said constant bearing meant you were on a collision course. Then you added it could be same course/same speed and now you’re stating constant bearing and intersecting courses.

            Yes, vector math works. It is the basis for maneuvering board. Cheers.

          • publius_maximus_III

            Perhaps to you, hopefully not to others taking the time to read my admittedly lengthy posts.

            Let me try to say the same thing a 4th time: if you are concerned about a collision, you are not going to be working feverishly to determine the course of a vessel moving AWAY from you or PARALLEL to your own vessel. You are only looking at vessels whose courses appear to intersect your own vessel’s course at some point in the future. Those are the particular circumstances I will limit my discourse. Any other conditions may be of interest to others, not to me.

            I did not say “constant bearing meant you were on a collision course” as you so falsely claim — I said two bearings, taken at two different times, on another vessel whose course will intersect your own vessel’s course, will predict a COLLISION along that intersecting course if one thing, and one thing only, were true: that both bearings are exactly the same. Do not put words into my keyboard.

          • Owl

            publius, while maths is not a democracy, it does not play favorites too. I gave an example of same bearing but increasing distance, even simplified it by factoring in a 90 degree bearing so you can use Pythygora’s to work out the speed needed. This PROVES that a constant bearing does NOT predict a collision. Get a piece of paper and work it out, if 2 ships are diverging from each other at 45 degrees and one has a greater speed of x= sqrt (2 x*squared) where x is the slower craft’s speed, your bearing will still be the same even when they are moving away from each other.


          • publius_maximus_III

            @Owl: Sir, I perceive that you are either an Englishman or a Canadian (maths) and not an American (math). All three are great countries with a tremendous maritime tradition. I think we can at least agree on that.

            I believe if you will read the new reply posted above by Marcus Silva, he clearly shows what you are stating. It is possible for two vessels to be on diverging courses with constant relative bearings. But such a condition is neither very common or very helpful in determining whether the intersecting courses of two vessels spells potential doom for both, for the simple reason they are diverging and not intersecting.

          • Owl

            True, so constant bearing is not an indicator of a collision unless matched with other data, like range. And assuming both ships maintain conditions. The AIS data for the Crystal showed massive course changes in a short time, that messes up any constant bearing predictions.

          • publius_maximus_III

            Agreed. If you think a vessel is going to cross your path (it appears to be getting larger, or at night the spacing between its running lights seems to be getting larger) you can do this quick and dirty check: if two different bearings taken a few minutes or even a few seconds apart turn out to be the same, time to play it safe and take evasive action. Plenty of time later to determine if you are in one of the special cases already discussed ad nauseum.

            But had both vessels been on steady courses at steady speed and monitoring each other’s bearing using this ancient rule of thumb, a collision could have easily been avoided, well in advance.

          • Owl

            I thought the AIS track showed the Crystal on a gradual turn before the collision? It was trying to thread between the island of Oshima and Toshima

          • publius_maximus_III

            Curving courses, varying speeds, the coreolis effect north of the equator. (only kidding on that last one).. things rapidly get out of hand past the simplistic approach and assumptions of my little ditty. Best to sit back and allow the professionals to dissect and distill the available facts. They may not be able to share everything, but enough to satisfy a hungry public’s concern for their countrymen at risk abroad.

          • Marcus Silva

            YES, you can get constant bearing on divergent courses. Just imagine two ships that were stern to stern, so one ship goes ahead, and the other do the same, they are in opposite courses in distinction of 180 degrees, their bearings are constant!!!! If both ships travel from one point going ahead in a situation of triangle ( doesn”t matter the angle between then ), in the same speed, they put away each other ( ideal ) in constant angle. Can you see that? But in this situation enough to say that if you observe all-mighty radar, you can note the other ship is increasing his distance from you.

          • publius_maximus_III

            Trivial pursuit.

          • Owl

            True. Just taking exception to his claims ‘constant bearing = collision’. Not to mention in this case, the Crystal showed signs of massive course changes in a short time from the AIS data.

            But my BIGGEST objection is to assign blame and punishment even before an investigation, which you guys do not seem to realize you’re supporting. Look at kitten’s original post. Do you support a course of action like that?

          • publius_maximus_III

            @Owl: I did not state what you claim. My words speak for themselves for those who take the time to read them. And do not attempt to muddy the waters of debate by introducing course and speed changes, which are not what my original post discusses. My statements are purely blackboard, non-worldly mathematical principles. In reality there are factors like wind, current, etc. that factor into such idealized concepts. But one must start with basics before proceeding onward to the complexities of real life.

          • Owl

            Sure publius, but not if you’re trying to assign blame through your blackboard maths. In this case, someone was trying to assign a charge of negligence which you seem to be aiding by pointing out ‘perfect solutions show that he should know’. Do realize your ‘blackboard maths’ is being used as a basis for criminal charges? Or at least an attempt to smear others on the jury of public opinion? Words can kill. Care should be taken when using them.

          • publius_maximus_III

            I positively did not mean to impune or accuse anyone with my clinical theories. Perhaps I should have chosen a better place in the thread to post, sorry,

            Men and machines are so different from chalk and board that the difference does not even need to be noted. I trust the skills and diligence of our USN crewmen almost as much as I would someone about to perform surgery on me. A merchant vessel (probably on auto-pilot) not so much.

            FYI, my Dad was a Tin Can sailor on a destroyer in the Pacific during WW-II.

          • Owl

            ‘A merchant vessel (probably on auto-pilot) not so much’
            To be really honest, this is what I suspect happened too, not to mention warships tend to be off the AIS. But before trial, I do think we need to wait for the investigator’s report first. The last thing tragedy needs is a kangaroo court to add more misery to the whole mess.

          • Marcus Silva

            auto-pilot is just a working feature if there is a person behind controls to get HANDS FREE, but the brain remains thinking evaluating all the situation, and keep your eyes where your ship is going to, the watcher officer simply can’t go to sleep and give his job to a robot!!!!!!!!!

          • Owl

            You want to bet that after 4 hours of staring at nothing, people’s minds don’t wander?

          • trh

            As trivial as my scenario was, it disproved your statements.

            Maybe your vector logic took you down the Niagara River, but when we transited from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie, we took the Welland Canal.


          • Marcus Silva

            In this situation, radar will show distances increasing,( but constant bearing ) and as officer in charge of the bridge, you should evaluate this is not a danger situation.

          • Marcus Silva

            sorry again to say, but moving or stationary, the constant bearing exists when in route to collision. Owl, do you have some experience at sea? Have you ever served in a ship? Have you ever been in charge of navigating a ship?

          • Owl

            Some ship experience though not navigation.
            Though tbh you take note whenever someone gets close to you, not only on constant bearings. After all,1-you don’t do maths for every single ship you see and 2- you cannot be certain that other guy will maintain conditions, especially sail.

          • Duane

            All of that is well and good, but if nobody screwed up on the Fitz, then all of our ships are condemned to similar fates, because nobody can help it, by that line of logic.

            Like the child who is caught in a no-no and shrugs his or her shoulders and says “it was an accident” when clearly they did something wrong, a wise parent does not simply accept that excuse and move on, else there is no learning, and no avoidance of future similar outcomes. It’s not about the punishment, it’s about the learning.

            Nearly all “accidents”, be they maritime or aviation or train or automobile or industrial accidents, are avoidable, or at least can be mitigated … yet they happen anyway because of a chain of events and decisions or non-decisions by humans that, if the chain is broken at any single point, the accident does not happen, or at least its consequences are minimized. There is virtually always a combination of human error or poor human judgment combined with other factors that are not the “fault” of anyone involved at the scene, though it may be the fault of a designer, or a builder or manufacturer, or a maintainer, or of command or management.

            No doubt that the same kind of accident chain existed with the Fitz, and to the extent that the Naval and Coast Guard investigations reveal the elements in that chain, it will be clear that changes will be needed to avoid a repetition. Starting with changes in command, perhaps changes in other personnel, changes in training, perhaps changes in design, changes in procedures, changes in materiel, etc.

          • Owl

            So true, but my point was no shooting people until the investigation is complete. Random assignment of ‘guilt’ isn’t an investigation, it is a witchhunt carried out to appease the ‘people’ who don’t usually have a fig in the ring.

            Very difficult to ‘unshoot’ a person, especially with the internet these days, things on the net stay on for eons. Even if exonerated later, most netizens don’t bother to pursue proper academic rigor to their understanding and will prefer to just persist in spreading original erroneous material since it is more sensationalist. Like Kitten.

            ID, aim, then shoot. Don’t shoot first, ID later…

          • Duane

            btw, the navigation radar for the Arleigh Burke class (presumably also on the Fitz) is the AN/SPS-67, used primarily for short range nav target sensing and automated tracking (track while scan, or TWS), with only a secondary function of tracking aerial targets. Supposed to have excellent precision, able to distinguish targets of buoy size and those in close proximity in congested harbor areas. If it was functional and operating, it should have kept the ship’s crew fully apprised of the other ship’s track and speed in more or less a “real time” basis.

            Heck, a cheap consumer radar unit selling for under $2K will do that on civilian boats, and do it very well (tracking up to dozens of targets simultaneously at up to 50 miles away using Doppler to quickly determine target course, range, and speed at up to 48 rpm, and issues alarms via the multi-function panel if a target is on a likely collision course). If the AN/SPS-67 can’t do better than that, maybe the Navy needs to order one of these two thousand dollar Garmin radomes for every one of their multibillion dollar ships!

            The SPY/1 you mentioned is the air search radar for the AEGIS system, not a nav radar. Different specs and different requirements.

            So, questions the investigators will likely look at, among hundreds, was the AN/SPS-67 operational? What was its performance at and just before the time of the collision? What was its maintenance history? The qualifications of the operator? Did the radar operator keep the OOD informed of the other ship’s track? What did the OOD do in response? The list goes on and on.

            There are many links in the accident chain that will be investigated and evaluated.

          • Marcus Silva

            sorry to say but radar tells exactly the movements of your “opponent”, it is possible to calculate speed and course of other ships, you can make a provision of the movements, and in collision situation that is enough to direct by COLREGS, so ships will make turns correctly following navigation rules, but not randon or erratic turns that will set worse, that will drive to a tragedy, and to sail a ship is a profession, not a cheap game. Yes, radar is all-mighty in good hands.

        • Donald Carey

          Yeah, freighters speed through the sea making all kinds of sudden, sharp turns.

  • Marcd30319

    Kitty, you may think you are some cool cat but you are nothing but a weasel. Say ta-ta to your intolerant, ignorant, and ignoble comments.

  • Topnife

    Aside from the massive hole created by the bow of the Crystal, that no doubt affected watertight bulkheads, the report also states that “impact of Crystal not only caved in the hull and smashed the superstructure but also twisted the ship”. I think that this distortion was actually visible from initial photos, and suggests that possibly even the keel itself has been “bent” (if that be possible). If so, it seems likely that ship-handling will be irreversibly affected. I’d suspect that the cost of repairs, to restore a ship that is at best “bent”, (a 22 year old ship, anyway), might be better spent on a new DDG, rather than trying to straighten out what has now become a bent scow.
    No doubt many will disagree….

  • I do understand that the quick repair kits are good, but I also understand that it is hard to fix a broke keel using massive amounts of JB Weld.

  • FiveVictor

    How can you fail to see if you have a pair of human eyes constantly watching to starboard, a pair of eyes constantly watching to port, and a pair of eyes constantly watching at the stern?

  • Queens Lawyer

    Wow you can see the line were the top edge of the cargo ship’s bow just cut into her, right beneath the radar plates. and that front right radar looks bent. That’s going to be expensive to fix. commissioned in 1995 so 22 years in service. going to be close on the fix v salvage calculation.

  • the Dysfunctional Veteran

    the keel is tweaked- you can see it in pictures. repairing is a waste of $$$ and manpower. scrap the poor thing or use for target practice… she’s done…

  • Steve Richter

    Why has the public not yet been told how the crew did not see the approaching ship?

  • Marcus Silva

    first of all……..my thoughts and prayer to the 7 deceased sailors, they are the real gold of USA!

  • Americanflyer King

    Kids i know exactly why it happen! Gather round well i explain it to you. See the navy just commissioned this ship and appointed Captain Stevie Wounder……. Oh yes see Stevie always wanted to piolt a navy vessesel.

  • Americanflyer King

    Stevie Wounder has had an amazing nautical career ….. “New Carissa” UM…… the “EXON VALDEZ”

  • herschel wince

    July 21 2017….USNI has no mention of updated information about DDG Fitzgerald’s crew culpability in ramming incident? Disappointing to hear it from the Commie News Network and not USNI….step up your coverage….

  • Yuriko

    I am sad for the seven sailor and pray their families find comfort.