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USS Fitzgerald Command Triad Removed Following Early Investigation Results

Cmdr. Bryce Benson, Cmdr. Sean Babbitt and CMC Brice Baldwin were removed from their positions on USS Fitzgerald

This post has been updated with an additional statement from U.S. 7th fleet.

THE PENTAGON — The top three leaders of the guided-missile destroyer involved in the June collision, which resulted in the death of seven sailors and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, have been removed from their positions, the vice chief of naval operations told reporters on Thursday afternoon.

USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) commander Cmdr. Bryce Benson, executive officer Cmdr. Sean Babbitt and command master chief CMC Brice Baldwin were removed from their positions by U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin this week based on the early results of several investigations into the June 17 collision between the destroyer and the merchant ship ACX Crystal, VCNO Adm. Bill Moran told reporters.

As the investigations continue, Moran said there could further punitive actions taken, including against Fitzgerald’s leadership. Neither Benson, Babbitt nor Baldwin were on the bridge when the collision occurred.

While the leadership have not been separated from the Navy, Moran said being detached for cause because of this incident sends a message.

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

“Vice Adm. Aucoin’s judgment is that he needs to take action to hold people accountable based on what he does know,” Moran said.
“Imagine the ship and the crew are there and we’re trying to determine what to do with that ship and that crew: if it’s clear to him that some members of that crew should no longer be doing this line of work, it’s time to move them on, it’s time to take accountability actions.”

In a early Friday statement, U.S. 7th Fleet said it had disciplined several other sailors who were on duty during the collision

“Several junior officers were relieved of their duties due to poor seamanship and flawed teamwork as bridge and combat information center watchstanders. Additional administrative actions were taken against members of both watch teams,” read the statement.
“The collision was avoidable and both ships demonstrated poor seamanship. Within Fitzgerald, flawed watch stander teamwork and inadequate leadership contributed to the collision that claimed the lives of seven Fitzgerald sailors, injured three more and damaged both ships.”

The removals and additional punishments for those standing watch during the incident come as the Navy released a supplemental investigation that detailed the circumstances aboard Fitzgerald that resulted in the death of the seven sailors who drowned in their berthing space. The line of duty investigation occurs when a service member dies to make sure they did not die due to their own misconduct.

While the service was clear that the supplemental investigation was only into the events following the collision and not on the conduct of the crew before they hit the merchant ship, there are signs in the 41-page summary that there were substantial failures by the watch ahead of the damage control efforts.

Diagram of the collision between Crystal and Fitzgerald. US Navy Image

According to a timeline of events, neither a collision alarm nor general quarters were sounded ahead of Crystal hitting the ship at about 1:30 a.m. on June 17, and the first indication to most of the crew that the ship had hit anything was the lurch they felt in their bunks.

“Some of the sailors who survived the flooding in Berthing 2 described a loud noise at the time of impact,” read the report.
“Other Berthing 2 sailors felt an unusual movement of the ship or were thrown from their racks. Still other Berthing 2 sailors did not realize what had happened and remained in their racks. Some of them remained asleep. Some sailors reported hearing alarms after the collision, while others remember hearing nothing at all.”

According to the report, 35 sailors in Berthing 2 were in the space when the bulbous bow of Crystal pierced Fitzgerald’s hull in an adjacent access space that was only separated from sailors’ racks by a non-watertight door. The impact punched a 17-foot-by-13-foot hole in the side of the ship below the waterline.

A sailor stands below the hull patch over the starboard hole in USS Fitzgerald. US Navy Photo

“As a result, nothing separated Berthing 2 from the onrushing sea, allowing a great volume of water to enter Berthing 2 very quickly,” read the report.

In a timeframe described as anywhere from 30 seconds to about a minute, water poured into Berthing Area 2 quickly rising to waist and then head height.

“Debris, including mattresses, furniture, an exercise bicycle, and wall lockers, floated into the aisles between racks in Berthing 2, impeding sailors’ ability to get down from their racks and their ability to exit the space,” read the report.
“The ship’s five to seven-degree list to starboard increased the difficulty for sailors crossing the space from the starboard side to the port side.”

Still, 28 sailors were able to escape from the berthing area in an orderly fashion in the scant seconds the crew had to leave the space as it flooded with water. The seven sailors who died in Berthing 2 were in the racks closest to the access space that was vented to the open ocean “and directly in the path of the onrushing water.”

Moran praised the response of the sailors.

View from the Berthing 2 Lounge toward the exit following deflooding of the ship. US Navy Photo

“When we look at that compartment, when we look at the pictures, some of them you’ve seen, it’s somewhat amazing that we didn’t lose far more,” he said on Thursday.
“By the time the last two sailors reached the ladder on the way up to the scuttle and out of that compartment, it had been about 90 seconds and by that time the water was up to their necks.”

In particular, Moran singled out the actions of Gary Leo Rehm Jr., who was advanced to Chief Petty Officer posthumously this week. Rehm helped get several sailors out to the exits while Berthing 2 was flooding and was one of the seven who died.

“In Gary Rehm is the sprit, courage and values of what we’d expect of a chief petty officer,” Moran said.
“CPO Rehm’s actions that night clearly embodied those values as he and several others crew members did some extraordinary things to make sure they could save additional lives. Selflessly he gave his own, and saved the ship, which was in jeopardy after the collision.”

Meanwhile, the superstructure of Fitzgerald was caved in, crushing and warping Benson’s stateroom and leaving him hanging to the side of the hull in the open air for 15 minutes.

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

“Five sailors used a sledgehammer, kettlebell and their bodies to break through the door into the CO’s cabin, remove the hinges, and then pry the door open enough to squeeze through. Even after the door was open, there was a large amount of debris and furniture against the door, preventing anyone from entering or exiting easily,” read the report.
“A junior officer and two chief petty officers removed debris from in front of the door and crawled into the cabin. The skin of the ship and outer bulkhead were gone and the night sky could be seen through the hanging wires and ripped steel. The rescue team tied themselves together with a belt in order to create a makeshift harness as they retrieved the CO, who was hanging from the side of the ship.”

Benson was one of three sailors who were evacuated from the ship, as his condition continued to worsen after his rescue.

Damage control parties fought the flooding for an hour before they could signal for help, since the collision had knocked out the ship’s long-range communications. The crew eventually sent out a distress call via a personal cell phone.

In the midst of clearing the hundreds of tons sea water from the ship, the crew also rescued three sailors who were trapped in the sonar room below the waterline. In the subsequent hours, the crew was able to get the destroyer moving again under its own power while the Japan Coast Guard evacuated the injured sailors, including Benson.

The ship eventually returned to Yokosuka and continued repairs to stabilize the ship and recover the sailors left behind in Berthing 2.

The report released on Thursday will be far from the last to emerge from the investigation.

“The families had been asking since the initial line of duty investigation for additional information that would describe how their sons died,” Moran said.
“They’re in a better place, I hope, for having the knowledge of how it occurred.”

The Navy also completed a safety investigation and continues to conduct a Navy’s Manual of the Judge Advocate General (JAGMAN). Moran indicated that the complete reports would not be released to the public but that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson was committed to share as many details as possible of what went wrong on June 17.

While the investigations continue, the Navy announced it would transport Fitzgerald back to the U.S. for further assessment and repairs. While the assessments are ongoing, several naval analysts have told USNI News the costs could easily rise above $500 million.

  • skater974

    “…when the bulbous bow of Crystal pierced Fitzgerald’s hull in an adjacent access space that was only separated from sailors’ racks by a non-watertight door.”
    That doesn’t sound right. If there is indeed a non-watertight door of that nature, that sounds like a design flaw. We had nothing like that on my Spru-can, that’s for sure.

    • Marc Phillips

      There’s a non water tight hatch between decks…

    • Windrider_HD

      Oh, I’m pretty sure there were plenty of non watertight doors on your ship.

    • Richard McCracken

      It’s just a door to keep light from the ladder well from entering the berthing. The hatches between the decks, and the bulkhead aft of the ladder are watertight. It was just a bad spot to get hit.

  • Austin

    “It’s going to be pretty hard to recover from this.”

    Opinion: It is unseemly and “unbecoming” for the likely career-impact to be hoisted into the spotlight here in any way. Seven men lost their lives on Fitzgerald. Period. End of sentence. With respect.

    • Sparks13

      So they could brush it all under the rug as the military so often does? Aren’t you the perfect little Stepford stooge. The men who died, and their families, deserve to know that their loved ones did nothing wrong. That they shouldn’t have died. That the dereliction of their duty on the part of their CO’s will be PUNISHED.

  • Del

    What charges are being recommended for the Captain of the Cargo ship and those on the Bridge..

    • Western

      Probably none. From all current information available, the cargo ship had the right of way. Of course, their duty is to avoid collision, however, I’m waiting for the final report.

    • TheFightingIrish

      By now, I would think the owner of the cargo ship already disciplined their captain and I’m guessing he’s looking for a new job too.

    • james flynn

      What would you recommend?

  • anolesboy

    Sad this happen…….Men died and careers destroyed. All doing a job to protect left wind radicals we saw in Virginia. Did they die in vain protecting these people? Thanks for your service, Go Navy.

    • TheFightingIrish

      No, they didn’t. They died proudly serving their country.

    • Larry

      Don’t feed this mindless troll.

  • Bill Bond

    Why were lockers and furniture floating in the space. All of that equipment is supposed to mounted to bulkheads.

    • NEC338x

      In the case of the racks and lockers, likely sheared retaining bolts from the force of impact.

      • Victor

        Don’t buy it!

        • Ken Adams

          Having experienced the damage of a large scale event like this, I buy it. These are not armored berthings.

          • Ed L

            I buy the racks and lockers not attached after the collision. Been in collisions at sea and seen that happen. During one a drawer to a Hamilton Safe was not closed and it shot out and ended up on the other side of CIC, the catches didn’t hold

  • DaSaint

    Such a frightful situation, in the dead of night. I feel for those families that lost loved ones, and for those injured in the collision. I also feel for the career officers whose careers are most likely ended. I’m sure they woke up that day never imagining that their careers would end this way. But accountability is required, and lessons must be learned from such tragedies.

    • Sparks13

      Had they been doing their jobs, they wouldn’t have destroyed their own careers.

  • ou1954

    I was OOD underway on the USS Wiltsie DD-716 in the long ago. There is no way the Fitzgerald could not have been the burdened vessel. Our surface search radar in those days [SG-1B if you are old enough to remember] was about 30 NM and whenever we saw a vessel at that range (and closer of course) we planned to take action if we were burdened. No exceptions.
    ===========================
    EDIT- I posted two detailed corrections to this post but they were apparently deleted. Maybe this edit will stand.

    I posted the above comment before I saw some additional information about the track (probable track) of the Fitzgerald. I won’t comment again until I see an official release from the navy.

    • james flynn

      And I’d bet the skipper was on the bridge when in heavy traffic, regardless the time of day..

      • ou1954

        Always, and always nervous. I describe above, as a response to my first comment, an experience when I was alone at night in radar and radio silence..

      • Refguy

        Which skipper? The destroyer skipper was rescued from his cabin!

    • Jerry Mandering

      Appears Crystal was overtaking Fitz–as such Crystal had the onus to overtake safely.

      Moot point though. The OOD and CIC should known what was going with that humongous radar contact. The lookouts are negligent as well.

      • waveshaper1

        IMHO (I could be wrong and probably am), the Fitz was overtaking the Crystal. The damage to the Fitz is pushed rearward toward the ships aft. I believe the only way that could happens is if it was overtaking the Crystal at the time of the collision. If the Crystal was overtaking the Fitz at the time of the collision the damage to the Fitz would be pushed forward toward the bow. The damage to the Crystal (particularly the damage/scrapes around the anchor area) also seems to indicate that the Fitz was the overtaking vessel in this collision.

        • publius_maximus_III

          The direction of the USS Fitzgerald damage (pushed toward the aft) does imply her forward speed was greater than the cargo ship. But whether they had been on an intersecting collision course for some time, or whether the collision was due to an unsafe turn of one ship or the other just before the accident, cannot be determined just from the damage.

          The diagram included in this article seems to show a glancing blow. Had the angle of incidence been greater, the USS Fitzgerald would probably have been severed in two and gone down within minutes, IMO. As it was, the collision was not as severe, with some of the sailors in the berthing area sleeping through the actual collision. The main puncture was below the berths, with water rising from below deck. Also, the larger cargo ship was apparently uncertain of the collision and took some time to come about to investigate. Not to minimize the loss of these brave sailors, and the heroic efforts of the damage control parties, but this could have been far worse than it was.

          • james flynn

            In 1980 the USCG tender BLACTHORN, transiting lower Tampa Bay, changed course to regain the shipping channel. Doing so she collided with the S.S. Capricorn, an inbound loaded tanker. What would have been a fender bender resulted in the CAPRICORN’s port anchor Impaling the hull of the smaller cutter resulting in much loss of life within the berthing compartments..Four officers were on the bridge of the BLACTHORN at the time of collision. .. Google is your friend..

          • publius_maximus_III

            Google is no friend, only use Bing since a few Easters ago.

            Most interesting read in Wikipedia, anchor of the Capricorn (which was ready to be dropped) imbedded in the Blackthorn. Accident was not too bad, but as ships separated, anchor chain pulled taunt and rolled the smaller ship over, with 23 perishing and 27 surviving the capsizing. I thank you for your service to your country in USMC and USMM. My Dad was a pharmacist mate on a destroyer in the Pacific in WW-II, and his older brother was on PBY’s in the same theater.

      • notfondoflibs

        Absolutely correct. 7 men are dead because so many others were derelict in their on watch duties at the same time. I can say that many years after my service, “Thanks to all the men who did their duties competently aboard the Worden and Knox, I came home. It was a privilege to serve with you.”

      • dantheman

        UR correct, Crystal was overtaking and was the burdened vessel.

        The wire agency’s account is based on Capt. Ronald Advincula’s
        after-accident report to Dainichi Investment Corporation, the owner of
        the ACX Crystal. Advincula’s account could not be confirmed, but he asserted that:

        – USS Fitzgerald was on a crossing course;

        – ACX Crystal tried to signal the Fitzgerald with flashing lights;

        – Fitzgerald did not respond to light signals or take evasive action;

        – ACX Crystal steered hard to starboard to avoid collision;

        – ACX Crystal struck the Fitzgerald ten minutes after taking this evasive action;

        – the time of impact was about 0130 hours;

        – there was “confusion” on the Crystal’s bridge after the collision;

        – and the Crystal turned around to return to the scene of the accident after proceeding for another six nm.

        His account may conflict with AIS records of the ACX Crytal’s trackline: this data shows that the Crystal
        altered course slightly to port about ten minutes before the collision –
        not hard to starboard. Just after the reported time of impact, the Crystal’s AIS heading swung sharply to starboard.

        ————————————————————————————-

        Unless pigs & DDG’s can fly this collision was physically impossible based on Advincula’s statement.
        Without question Crystal was overtaking Fitzgerald and was the burdened vessel, but still have no clue why Fitz was so unaware.

        • waveshaper1

          Good post but IMHO you got this particular portion backwards “Without question Crystal was overtaking Fitzgerald”. See the posts below.

          • dantheman

            I’ve seen all those posts, they are incorrect. Crystal was overtaking and was the burdened/give way vessel.

          • waveshaper1

            I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on this particular point . I’m sure more detailed info on this issue of which ship was in the overtaking mode will be released eventually. Overall, I pretty much agree with most of the info you posted.

          • dantheman

            I respect your opinion but if this had been crossing Fitz may very well be lying on the bottom now. I remain completely mystified about Fitz’s lack of awareness; makes no sense.

          • waveshaper1

            I believe this was a low angled collision. If this would have been a 90% or anywhere close to a 90% collision (Fitz getting T-boned) then you are correct “the Fitz probably would be on the bottom).

          • Duane

            Based upon what actual data do you make that statement? The Fitz is a faster, much smaller, and much more maneuverable vessel than the ACX Crystal, and was travelling at a reported 20 knots, which is near the reported maximum unloaded speed of the Crystal (23 knots), which we know to have been heavily loaded (1,080 containers on board). One of the two ships, if not both, was out of the approved approach lanes for Tokyo Bay, which are separated by a minimum 1 mile wide neutral zone. The two vessels were on generally opposite intended courses – one outbound from Tokyo Bay (the Fitz) and the other inbound. And at the point of collision the Crystal was to starboard of the Fitz, making Fitz the burdened vessel per the international rules of navigation.

        • Duane

          The Fitzgerald was transiting at a reported 20 knots and in this area was required to stay in the outbound lane of the approaches to Tokyo Bay, separated by a minimum of 1 mile from the inbound approach lane in which the ACX Crystal was traveling. The Crystal’s reported maximum speed is 23 knots, and that likely represents a lightly loaded condition and a clean hull, which it was not unloaded on approach to Tokyo Bay (it carried 1,080 containers at that time). Therefore it is rather unlikely that the Crystal was moving anywhere near fast enough to be the burdened vessel based upon relative speeds.

          Based upon relative position, the Fitz was the burdened vessel since the Crystal was to its starboard side.

          What the accident reports, now being prepared by the Japanese Coast Guard, the US Coast Guard, and the US Navy, do not indicate are the relative locations, courses, and speeds of the two vessels at the point of collision, and during the period in which a collision became likely, if not apparent. Where were the vessels relative to the approved approach lanes? What speeds? What courses?

          That will come out eventually.

          What we have seen to date are unofficial leaks to the media that the US Navy investigators believe the Fitzgerald to be at fault, and now the division commander has relieved the senior command of the Fitz indicating his lack of confidence in the three men to continue their duties on the Fitz.

          We don’t know yet, but the tea leaves seem to indicate fault by the Fitz’s commanders and crew.

          • dantheman

            Fitz’s actions or lack thereof are mystifying, don’t have a clue. Do U have a source re Fitzgerald’s 20 knots. I’ve seen nothing regarding her course/speed; it would help immensely. I am also unaware

            of relative speed as a component of right-of-way on the high seas, unless you’re DIW. Relative position, i.e. the vessel to starboard has the right-of-way in a crossing situation, the vessel ahead has the right-of-way in an overtaking situation, and both vessels are obligated to turn right in a meeting situation. None of these can be ruled out. I appreciate your post and your info, keep it coming.

          • Duane

            No – the vessel ahead does not have right of way under the international rules of the road. The FASTER vessel in an overtaking situation is required to alter course or speed to avoid collision. The Crystal could easily have been in a crossing situation, rather than an overtaking situation, and still rammed the vessel ahead. The vessel to port is required to give way, as is the faster vessel.

            The unofficial report describes the Fitz’s planned transit. All naval units have to plan their cruising ops, including planned tracks, courses, and speeds, and report them to their division commanders for purposes of both planning and monitoring operations.

            As for speed, the international rules require that an overtaking vessel (i.e., the faster vessel) is burdened in any potential collision situation. The faster vessel is required to either alter course or speed to avoid the collision with the slower vessel. The relative positions of the vessels also govern, such that the vessel that has another vessel to its starboard is burdened and must give way to avoid collision.

          • dantheman

            Agree 100%. I maintain Crystal was overtaking and was the burdened/give-way vessel.

          • james flynn

            Spent much time at sea?

          • dantheman

            Five (5) years USN DD OOD, GQ OOD, Special Sea Detail OOD ; I suspect more time in the driver’s seat than any one here, and I was very good at it.

          • james flynn

            The overtaking vessel has to await a response from the overtaken vessel before proceeding…You can’t just blow your whistle and toot by..though many have done such..

          • SomeSailor

            Negative, you are describing overtaking for inland rules. The rules that apply are the international rules. They were NOT in a narrow channel or fairway, thus a sound signal was not required. International rules 34.c and 13 apply.

          • Duane

            Well, apparently the Japanese did establish separate inbound and outbound lanes for the approaches to Tokyo Bay, with a 1-mile wide neutral zone between. Since the Crystal was inbound, and Fitz was outbound, then obviously at least one of the two vessels did not honor the approach lanes, and possibly both did not. Whether a whistle is required for designated approach lanes, a better sea lawyer than me needs to explain.

          • damontg

            In International Rules of the Road, you signal your intentions and proceed to do so. The other vessel should answer that it understands and agrees, but does not have to. In US Coastal and Inland Waters, you signal your intentions and wait for a return signal (that they agree and then you go ahead.) Or to simply put it; in International Waters you signal your intentions…in Inland/coastal (USA) Waters you ask permission.

          • dantheman

            “No – the vessel ahead does not have right of way under the international
            rules of the road. The FASTER vessel in an overtaking situation is
            required to alter course or speed to avoid collision. The Crystal could
            easily have been in a crossing situation, rather than an overtaking
            situation, and still rammed the vessel ahead. The vessel to port is
            required to give way, as is the faster vessel.”
            —————————————————————————————–
            RU kidding? If you are overtaking a vessel ahead than you are faster (by definition and the laws of physics) and required to either alter course and/or speed. Not talking about a crossing situation, talking about an overtaking situation, they are two very different animals. Get your facts and terminology straight.

          • Duane

            Not kidding. It’s virtually certain that the Crystal was NOT overtaking, but the Fitz was crossing in front of it, and likely at a higher speed too. The Fitz was “ahead”, but burdened by being to port, and was likely also moving faster, which happens in a crossing situation rather than an overtaking situation.

          • Refguy

            The stand-on vessel is obligated to maintain course and speed, both vessels are obligated to avoid a collision and the more maneuverable vessel should be prepared to give way to the less maneuverable vessel.

          • dantheman

            Duane, we know exactly what Crystals track (course/speed) was from start to finish. It explains a lot by itself. Let’s hope the Navy releases the same info re Fitz but I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t.

          • Duane

            We don’t know that. The Navy and the other two investigating agencies know it, but will not release the information until their respective investigations are complete and the causes and fault can be determined.

          • waveshaper1

            Summary of the Crystal course speed (very short version);
            – Leading up to and including the speed at the time of the collision; Speed 17.3 knots/course 88 degrees.
            – After collision the Crystal makes a 90 turn to the South/Southeast and slows down to 10 knots.
            – The Crystal eventual make a u-turn and starts heading back to the Fitzgerald. During this u-turn the Crystal slows down to 6 knots.
            – On the way back to the collision site/Fitzgerald the Crystal speeds back up to 14 knots.
            – Once the Crystal arrives back at the collision site/Fitzgerald it slows down to 2 to 4 knots and circles around/meanders for awhile.
            – Once the Japanese Coast Guard arrives on scene the Crystal departs for Tokyo harbor and speeds up to 16 knots.

          • james flynn

            Sped to 16 knots to make up for a timed arrival..Doubt she could ever make 20 knots at owners sea trial

          • waveshaper1

            At the time of or shortly before the collision the Crystal was going 17.3 knots
            based on the ships transmitted and recorded AIS data.
            Max speed of ACX Crystal;
            Excerpt (this is the registered max speed of ACX Crystal);
            – 25.3 knots (46.9 km/h; 29.1 mph) (maximum)
            – 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph) (service)

          • Duane

            Since neither the Japanese or US Coast Guard or US Navy have completed, let alone released their accident investigation reports, we don’t really know very much for sure. There are lots of unofficial media reports, but as we all know, these are not reliable.

            What we know for sure is that the Fitzgerald was to port of the Crystal, and that the Fitz was the faster and more maneuverable ship, and was likely travelling faster than the Crystal at the time of the collision. That points to the Fitz being at fault, simply based upon the international maritime rules of the road.

            The Fitz also has and uses a very sophisticated navigation surface search radar, which should have allowed detection, tracking, and plotting of any ship within possible range of a collision hazard in plenty of time to avoid a collision. And unlike most commercial vessels, the Fitz has a relatively large crew for maintaining a well-manned visual watch and plotting party underway, as is true for all naval vessels.

            There’s a heckuva lot more factual material to be revealed and explained, however, before anybody can reach any firm conclusions on fault, and the hows and whys of this collision..

          • Edward Burton

            The US Coast Guard? What would they be doing over there?

          • Duane

            The USCG operates far from US shores, and they get involved in investigating maritime accidents that involve either US vessels or occur in US waters. They are in fact one of three investigating agencies for this collision, along with the Japanese coast guard and the US Navy.

          • Thank you. I didn’t know this. I thought they were strictly intercontinental and Alaska and Hawaii. Thanks for setting me straight.

          • Old Salty 48

            The reports said Fitz was on a course of 230 – 20 kts heading to Subic.. The Crystal was on course 088 – 18 kts eventually heading to Tokyo harbor. There is record of lat/long of the collision point. I believe it puts the point just off the tip of the IZU peninsula. Last minute course changes to avoid the collision could affect the relative positions of the ships, but looks like at least at the start, it was a crossing situation. Another report said Fitz was in sight of land, doesn’t say what land but if the Japanese mainland which seems likely.. the Fitz would have been something less than 15 miles out to sea, which fits with the lat/long of the collision point.

          • Duane

            I’ve heard similar reports, but of course, we still need to wait for the official reports.

            What I’m especially interested in learning is which of the two ships, if not both, were outside of the designated approach lanes …. the approaches to/from Tokyo Bay, I understand, involve two 1-mile wide lanes separated by a 1-mile neutral zone. At least one of the two ships initiated the collision course by leaving its lane. That does not excuse the burdened vessel, but it seems likely to be part of the accident chain.

          • Frank Osborn

            Official reports or official cover up. Nothing is nobody elses fault

          • USNVO

            Well, I don’t have any knowledge of the situation outside the limited reports, the AIS track of the Crystal, the timeline of the collision, and common sense but that makes zero sense. What? did FITZ leave Yoko in the middle of the night? The damage makes no sense (closure speed of 38kts, FITZ not maneuvering? Walk me through how the get hit on the starboard quarter), the AIS track makes no sense, and the Crystals master statement that the FITZ veered in front of him makes no sense.

            What does make sense.
            FITZ is headed into port Crystal is overtaking to starboard about 1000yds slightly aft of the FITZ starboard beam, CPA 1000yds or so. Crystal turns 15 degrees to port to follow the TSS 10 minutes before the collision , FITZ doesn’t turn. 10 minutes later they collide.
            Damage is consistent with 3kts or so of lateral closure with limited fore-aft speed differential.
            Action of the FITZ is consistent. They were the stand on vessel, they stood on. No one caught the small change in aspect when Crystal turned and they were at a 1000yds or so because they were worrying about other contacts. Besides, they were the stand on vessel, they stood on.
            Action of the Crystal is consistent. They master of the Crystal said the FITZ veered in front of them 10 minutes before the collision when they changed course 15 degrees to port. Coincidence? I think not. They followed the TSS expecting FITZ to do the same and then lost track of them.
            Impact angle and known actions by both ships make sense. FITZ didn’t change course, Crystal turned after the collision then resumed tracking toward the nav point. Eventually figures they hit something big and goes back. There was no flashing light or attempt to avoid, that was the mate trying to cover for himself.

            We will eventually get the truth but an overtaking situation where one ship altered course close to CPA to follow the TSS just fits all the evidence way better. You don’t even have to suspend disbelief or have ships dematerialize in one place and rematerialize somewhere else.

          • Frank Osborn

            Most logical

          • Refguy

            Courses don’t make sense 088 is almost due East and 230 is almost due Southwest. Difference in courses is 142 degrees which doesn’t look anything like the sketch and is a crossing situation with Fitz the burdened vessel

          • Jim Crotty

            The impact drawings/photos are like after both ships made last minute unsuccessful attempts to avoid. So it’s possible the courses released are fairly accurate right up until last minute attempts to maneuver.

          • Refguy

            Maybe, but the picture shows near parallel courses, within thirty degrees, so relative course change is at least 110 degrees. If both ships put rudder hard over, the destroyer should have turned faster, maybe 75 degrees for the destroyer and 35 for the freighter. I don’t know max turn rate for either, but those seem like large course changes in a short time. Also, if both ships turned to port, they would have met head on or side swiped on reciprocal courses. If the initial courses are as stated, the destroyer would have to have turned port and the freighter to starboard (as stated by captain) to have been on near parallel courses at the time of impact. Can any former OODs weigh in on which way the destroyer should have turned assuming the stated initial courses are correct?

          • waveshaper1

            That’s possible. Here’ s my latest theory (I’m probably wrong).
            – The Fitz heading was 230 degrees at 20 Knots. 230 degrees is the heading you would take to pass just north of Luzon on your way to Subic Bay and that was the Fitz destination.
            – The Crystal was in the inbound shipping lane and its heading was 88 degrees at 17.3 knots.
            – These two heading set up a collision course with the possibility of either the Fitz T-boning the Crystal or the Crystal T-boning the Fitz.
            – The Crystal observed the Fitz coming on a path that was going to cut across the inbound shipping channel and the Fitz course could potentially imperial the Crystal. At about 10 minutes before the collision the Crystal started signaling/warning the Fitz with lights.
            – Apparently the Fitz continued on this collision course and didn’t respond to the Crystal warning signals.
            – The Fitz never changed course from its 230 degree heading and finally at the last moment the Crystal had to take evasive actions.
            – The Crystal makes a hard turn 90 degrees to starboard (see Crystal AIS track) to avoid a T-bone collision. The Crystals new course is now 178 degrees or so.
            – The Fitz never changes course from 230 degrees and moments later the two ships collide. Its possible that the Crystals hard turn to the starboard at the last moment prevented a T-bone type collision.

          • ou1954

            I’m a former OOD underway but as I said earlier, the directions, positions, and speeds of the two ships have been reported almost randomly. Opposite headings, about same heading, whatever. Can anyone come up with accurate information at this time?

          • Refguy

            Thanks for your reply; the box boat’s track is available from AIS and the Navy has had access to the log book and course recorder, so the investigation should be based on the correct info. We just have to wait for the Navy to release the information.

          • ou1954

            Thanks. I did see, early on, a track for the Crystal, sort of small. I don’t know where everyone is getting info on the destroyer’s movements. No doubt it is well-documented but the navy must be holding it.

            In my day it would have been pencil marks on a chart. Surely automated now.

            I just can’t make much sense of the situation.

            Now, another accident, the McCain, the fourth in a year.

          • james flynn

            Got that right.. loaded box boat, prior to timed arrival 13-15 knots..Check the log book.

          • james flynn

            Also, check the pilot station for estimate time of arrival for Crystal..

        • james flynn

          I doubt that a loaded box boat would be overtaking a vessel that was reportedly traveling at 20 knots..

          • USNVO

            I doubt any report that says the FITZ was going 20kts.

            Look at the impact angle above (figure 4). How exactly do you get that angle if the FITZ is going 20kts? We know what course the Crystal was on and they didn’t maneuver. We know the FITZ didn’t maneuver, if the FITZ is going 20kts it can’t happen. Besides,why would they be running around at 20kts? Where are they going? Why? Makes no sense at all.

            But if the Crystal is overtaking and both ships are following the TSS, it makes perfect sense. Crystal is fairly close and overtaking to Starboard, say 1000 yds on the starboard quarter on a parallel track. FITZ is going 12-15kts to arrive in the morning at the pilot station. Crystal turns port to follow the TSS while FITZ doesn’t causing the ship’s to close together and collide with a 3-4kt closure speed. Everything matches almost perfectly. Crystal course 15-20 degrees left of Fitz’s, check. Little fore-aft speed difference (notice virtually no damage on either side of the patch), check. The slower ship doesn’t miraculously run down the faster ship with neither noticing it. Check

            And it makes a lot more sense by the various actors.
            Crystal’s mate turns left (we know this from AIS) to follow the TSS expecting FITZ to do the same. Everyone turns there! Get’s involved with something else and doesn’t see the closing. All he has to judge aspect is a stern light. All the fancy bridge gear doesn’t give any warning because the FITZ is already inside the danger circle when they change course or he acknowledged the alarm because he knew the FITZ would turn. See, makes much more sense.

            FITZ watchstanders are ignoring the Crystal because it is at close to CPA, they are stand on, and they reported it a long time ago. No one sees the change in aspect because it is close to 270 anyway and it has been changing rapidly. CIC is ignoring it because it is at 1000 yds and the bridge has it. Besides, they are stand on. OOD either thinks he has to maintain course (he’s stand on), no one is paying attention to the nav track, or he is busy with other contacts. Again, makes perfect sense.

            It also makes sense of the fact that no other ship reported anything where a crazy ship doing 20kts weaving through the TSS and doing weird stuff is going to get the attention of other ships.

            We will see, but I have yet to hear anything definitive about what the FITZ was doing. There is virtually nothing that they could be doing where and when the collision occurred that makes
            1. Any sense except entering port
            2. Requires the ship to go 20kts. DDGs do not routinely go 20kts, they need a reason. They don’t transit at 20kts, they don’t steam independently at 20kts, they don’t cut donuts in the water at 20kts. Otherwise they get yelled at by the ISIC for wasting fuel. They may transit at 20kts in a busy TSS to avoid getting ran over by traffic but if they are headed inbound they arrive in the middle of the night or then have to loiter by the pilot station for hours (this is generally considered bad and defeats the purpose of going fast). If they are outbound, they had to leave in the middle of the night and the collision geometry makes zero sense.

            So until the official report comes out, I will be skeptical of any report that claims to know the FITZ speed. Look at the chart, the only reason to be where they were is to go in or out of Tokyo.

          • james flynn

            That’s the brunt of it, ain’t it. Nobody knows what the Fitz was doing. That will come out in the pre collision investigation. Till then, we are only guessing..Unless you have knowledge that would be helpful to the board..

          • waveshaper1

            “So until the official report comes out, I will be skeptical of any report that claims to know the FITZ speed. Look at the chart, the only reason to be where they were is to go in or out of Tokyo.”

            This is some general info from the 41 page US Navy official report that was just released (see the USS Fitzgerald timeline in enclosure #3);

            Excerpt;
            – 0000; FTZ underway in the Sea of Japan on the way to Subic Bay, Philippines. She was on a course of 230 degrees (True) at 20 knots with modified ZEBRA set throughout the ship. The ship was darkened, with the exception of exterior
            lights required for navigation. The Commanding Officer was off of the bridge.
            – 0130; Collision with the ACX CRYSTAL on the starboard side. Berthing 2 is flooded within 30-60 seconds.
            – etc, etc.
            A couple points about this limited tidbit of info. Note; I still really have no idea how these two ships eventually got tangled up and collided.
            – The Fitzgerald was on a 230 degree course when it departed Tokyo bay.
            – The collision happened later in the Mikomoto Shima section of the channel.
            – The outbound shipping lane heading in this portion of the channel is; 240 degrees and then turns to 270 degrees.
            – The inbound shipping lane heading in this portion of the channel is; 90 degrees and then turns to a 60 degrees.
            – The Crystal was on a 88 degree heading shortly before/at the time of the collision.
            – There’s a 1 mile buffer zone between the inbound and outbound shipping lanes.

          • Duane

            We DON”T know that the Fitz did not maneuver. Only the Navy knows what the Fitz actually did, and they aren’t saying yet, as the accident report has not been released. The only report released by the Navy is the post-collision DC report upon which we’re commenting.

            What doesn’t make sense is that if Crystal were overtaking – which seems hardly likely given that it was heavily loaded, and headed in the opposite direction (the Crystal was INBOUND to Tokyo Bay, and the Fitz was OUTBOUND to Subic Bay) – then why does the US Navy blame the Fitz for the accident? The squadron commander’s action in relieving the entire senior command because he wrote they no longer had his confidence, along with unofficial statements to the media by the investigation board members, clearly blames the accident on Fitz. The official report clearly states more members of the watch party are going to face punishment – punishment for what, doing their jobs correctly? Not hardly. The final report is going to lay all of this out.

          • dantheman

            I have yet to see any disclosure on Fitzgerald’s course or speed. Please site your 20 knot source. Thanks.

          • waveshaper1

            Please read the “Official” US Navy 41 page report on this incident. Go to item #1 on the massive timeline of “Events” from the ships log;

            Excerpt Item #1; FTZ underway in the Sea of Japan on the way to Subic Bay, Philippines. She was on a course of 230 degrees (True) at 20 knots with modified ZEBRA set throughout the ship. The ship was darkened, with the exception of exterior lights required for navigation. The Commanding Officer was off of the bridge.

          • dantheman

            gracias will comply

      • Florian Buck Romanowski

        I was the BM of the watch on the bradge and the look out should have seen that ship and also combat should have seen it too and let the bradge know that there was a ship out there I cant see how this could have happend it never would have happend on my watch the stern watch should have seen that ship too they must of been sleeping on duty.

      • ou1954

        See my general comment above.

      • james flynn

        When overtaking you’re on the same relative course..Please explain going 15-17 knots you’re overtaking someone going 20 knots? A NYC traffic cop could explain it to you..

        • Jerry Mandering

          Is there public knowledge of course and speeds involved? When I’ve been at sea, container ships go ahead full, in time is money mode. For Crystal, that is 25 knots. I don’t know how fast Fitz was going, nor the true speed of impact. But it doesn’t take much to do allot of damage.

      • Refguy

        Don’t the bridge and CIC displays have automatic alerts for CPAs below a minimum threshold?

    • Duane

      Clearly human error is involved in this collision. Either the nav radar was working perfectly and the operators or the OOD weren’t paying attention, or they should have known it wasn’t working properly, and should never have left port, and/or were taking additional steps to avoid any collision (posting extra watches, using searchlights, lighting up own ship, etc. – whatever tools they had at their disposal to see and be seen).

      The investigations will get at the who part of the human error chain, and more importantly, the why part, so that whatever deficiencies are discovered in command personnel and procedures will be corrected in all other vessels in the fleet.

      • ou1954

        See my response to me above.

    • dantheman

      Can Pigs fly?

      The wire agency’s account is based on Capt. Ronald Advincula’s
      after-accident report to Dainichi Investment Corporation, the owner of
      the ACX Crystal. Advincula’s account could not be confirmed, but he asserted that:

      – USS Fitzgerald was on a crossing course;

      – ACX Crystal tried to signal the Fitzgerald with flashing lights;

      – Fitzgerald did not respond to light signals or take evasive action;

      – ACX Crystal steered hard to starboard to avoid collision;

      – ACX Crystal struck the Fitzgerald ten minutes after taking this evasive action;

      – the time of impact was about 0130 hours;

      – there was “confusion” on the Crystal’s bridge after the collision;

      – and the Crystal turned around to return to the scene of the accident after proceeding for another six nm.

      His account may conflict with AIS records of the ACX Crytal’s trackline: this data shows that the Crystal
      altered course slightly to port about ten minutes before the collision –
      not hard to starboard. Just after the reported time of impact, the Crystal’s AIS heading swung sharply to starboard.

      ————————————————————————————-

      Unless pigs & DDG’s can fly this collision was physically impossible based on Advincula’s statement.
      Without question Crystal was overtaking Fitzgerald and was the burdened vessel, but still have no clue why Fitz was so unaware.

      • ou1954

        See general response above.

    • Jim Crotty

      The released info indicates Fitzgerald was on course 230 at 20 knots. It is hard to believe but it appears this was a basic crossing-situation with Fitzgerald as the burdened vessel. I have no idea how this was not evaluated as such by both the Bridge and CIC watch teams early in the process thereby allowing Fitzgerald plenty of time to maneuver to starboard to avoid a collision and keep the Crystal well outside of any desired CPA.

      • ou1954

        See my comment above.

        I wrote an extension to my original post. It’s either deleted or not vetted yet. I didn’t keep a copy.

    • ou1954

      I created an extended comment responding to several folks but it has disappeared.

      The short answer is that I didn’t have enough information on the tracks of both vessels to reach any conclusion. I had responded based on early information which might have been incorrect.

      In any case I do believe that regardless of the tracks of both vessels the Fitzgerald should have avoided the collision.

  • What did the CMC no do?

    • Fred Gould

      . We must wait and hold comments until the completion of the investigation.

    • Rob

      If the JOs and enlisted personnel f-ed up, then it’s because they weren’t sufficiently trained and supervised. That’s the responsibility of the command triad. The Buck Stops Here. Even if they did absolutely nothing wrong personally, as the leadership, they are ultimately responsible for everything that happens on that ship.

  • reaganite88

    I have been in a collision at night when we bumped with the oiler we were doing a night UNREP with. Even as close as the two ships were the bridge team still had enough time to hit the Collision Alarm and pass “Brace for Shock STBD side” over the 1MC.

    How asleep at the wheel were these guys that they couldn’t sound the collision alarm in time??? When in doubt hit the switch!

    • ou1954

      We never hit but as a smaller vessel than the oiler or carrier, we were very much influenced by the venture effect. We seemed to always have a couple of helmsmen who were able to do a good job. The only “event” I remember was some time earlier before I graduated. . . A midshipman cruise where the ships separated, spraying fuel oil on us. There, and later on my ship, it seemed that potatoes (stored outboard) always tasted like fuel oil.

      How many small ship folks remember those potatoes?

  • james flynn

    RIP sailors.
    Millions of dollars of the latest communication and navigation equipment on that bridge rendered usless due to main power loss. A Marine radio, 24 mile radar and GPS/Chartploter, all operated from 12 vdc auto batteries would have been handy. All available for less than $3,000 at your local boating store..

    • Larry

      Ships can navigate without the primary ship control system functioning and they have emergency power they can bring online. Ultimately, the can navigate with a paper chart, log, and compass without strapping car batteries and plotters from West Marine to the bridge.

      • james flynn

        From my reading there was no power available on the bridge, including emergency. When they got around to reporting the collision….. they used someone’s cell phone.
        Just curious, would the steering system be direct hydraulic /mechanical with electric pumps or “fly by wire”? Bet the after steering station is hydraulic with hand pumps. Anyone know?

        • USNVO

          They used the ship’s Iridium phone to report. The vast majority of the ship’s comms go through radio central which, as I understand it, was forward of the flooded berthing and was flooded as well. The vast majority of other comms are on the bridge, the circuit breakers are usually in the chart room which I have been told is to the aft and starboard of the bridge. About where the ship hit. So not surprising that they lost comms.

          Steering systems are electronic synchro with dual cables to after steering. Rudders move by hydraulics of course. No direct connection but you can operate either with follow up control or not from either location. There are hand pumps in after steering but you can’t really steer with them but you could centerline the rudders if you lost power.

          • waveshaper1

            “They used the ship’s Iridium phone to report”

            This is from the Navy 41 page report that was just released;

            Excerpt; FTZ makes initial report of collision at sea to CDS 15 via personal cell phone at approximately 0220.

          • james flynn

            Thanks. Former C/Eng..USMM, rtd,
            Former USMC.

  • Can someone tell me why the CO and XO are being disciplined when they were off watch?

    • Larry

      Yes – it’s their ship so they are responsible for the training and discipline of the entire crew, as well and the CMC. Something went seriously wrong on the watch, and the CO was in his berth, but it’s his job to make sure everyone does their job on every watch, 24/7.

      • Jerry Mandering

        Putting Larry’s words another way: the CO and XO are responsible for ship’s culture. A culture of doing things right, or a culture of sloppiness. CO and XO are responsible for continuous training, exercise and drills–to assure everyone can do their jobs without a doubt. It is abundantly clear, the watch on deck failed in several respects.

    • John Moore

      It’s called accountability and is the reason each individual in the chain of command is given authority commensurate with their responsibility. The skipper asleep in his or her cabin when the ship runs aground at midnight is usually relieved as a matter of routine. It’s the ancient law of the sea.

  • the Dysfunctional Veteran

    Her keel is tweaked- she needs to be retired. Build a new one, and name her the USS Gary Leo Rehm Jr and press on… and God Bless those poor 7 souls who perished due to their own shipmate’s gross neglect and dereliction of duty.

    • Jerry Mandering

      Yeah. I’m no engineer, but to my seamen’s eye, she appears to not be economically salvage-able.

      • Hugh

        Unless the damage had been much more severe, eg the fwd 1/2 of Frank E Evans lost, then politics will outrank economics.

        • Rob

          Arleigh Burke-class destroyers cost ~$2 billion to build. If the repair costs are $500 million, that’s more economically-feasible than building a new one to replace her.

    • James B.

      Fitzgerald will return to service, out of stubborness if nothing else. We repaired Samuel B. Roberts, whose keel was entirely broken by a mine, to prove that we could.

      • Bullet[BS]

        They will be able to build the damaged section from original plans, cut the ship and lay in a new section and it will be good as new. Modular building now makes this possible. Another crying shame example of Naval Officers inept Junior Officers on the Midwatch.

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    It’s cute how American’s think that there is much of a difference between National Socialists and International Socialists!

  • Puzzled

    The three top guys who were not on the bridge have been named and are effectively done. I understand that. They define the ship’s culture.

    What I don’t understand is why the names of those directly responsible are not being made available. Will they face criminal negligence charges? 7 sailors died because more than one person wasn’t doing their job. Who was the OOD? Was he or she even on the bridge?

  • Ed L

    The Command Master Chief removed? what did he do interfere with the investigation? Not that it bothers me. Most of the Command Master Chiefs I had to work with usually spout the Command line and rarely did they do anything to help a Sailor. Once saw one arrested for interfering in a NIS investigation (telling members of the crew not to talk to NIS) . He never came back to the Command.

  • CurtNewton

    The Captain was in his cabin. Who was the OOD and JOOD? What about the CIC Supervisor? For that matter, no ship the size of the Crystal can turn on a dime so its CPA should have been known long before the collision. Finally, what role did the Japanese Coast Guard have in regulating traffic in that crowded water?

    • waveshaper1

      REF; Google – “Japan Volume 1, Maritime Safety Information, 2017 PUB-158”; see Page 65 (Mikomoto Shima – Traffic Separation Scheme).

      This reference shows the shipping channel where this accident occurred (the channel at this location is basically like a divide interstate highway with a 1 mile median separating the one way lanes of traffic). This shipping channel is divided into three sections; You have an inbound shipping channel “for ships heading into Tokyo harbor” that is 2 miles wide (the Crystal was in the inbound shipping channel). You have an outbound shipping channel “for ships departing Tokyo harbor” that is 2 miles wide. There is a 1 mile buffer zone separating these two shipping channels.

      The Crystal was traveling in the inbound shipping channel heading east and making normal “minor course corrections” to the north because the channel changes direction to the North for entry into Tokyo harbor. There were other cargo ships also in this inbound channel (separated by a couple miles) and using AIS. The tracks of these other ships shows them making the same course corrections/at the same points as the Crystal (basically these other ships were following the channel and staying in their lanes, which seems to be SOP). At the time of the collision the Crystal makes a 90 degree turn to the south/southeast (this is the direction you would turn to get the heck out of the shipping channel in the shortest amount of time/distance traveled and not cross the outbound shipping channel). etc. Note; I have no idea where the USS Fitzgerald was, what direction it was going, speed, and how it was maneuvering in this traffic scheme, etc

  • Stryke

    While the ship is being repaired, how about installing radar. It’s been around a while and works.

    • Conrarian

      And teach how to use it.

    • Keith Scudder

      Go to Wikipedia and it will list all the features of the ship. Besides having three radar systems,
      they also had the ability to run “off the radar” and that might be why the Fatal collision even
      happened.

  • lookin4trace

    wow, look at the commenters with a speacialty in forensics.

  • Finian

    Master Chief Brice Baldwin. How is he involved unless he was also the OS Chief. Why not toss the Cheng? Seems cockeyed to me.
    As to who was at fault, it appears the fault was between CIC and the bridge. And since the freighter was on the starboard side, from the right, it had the right of way. It’s like driving, car to the right is right.
    Where were the signalmen (if they still exist) when allegedly flashed by the freighter. My first impression was that the Crystal was on iron mike and the mandatory lookout was asleep. They made up their facts. and the “quick to place blame” VAdm jumped.

    • Rob

      Why was no alarm sounded prior to the collision even when it was clear that a collision was imminent? Answer: negligence.

    • Ed L

      Signalmen’s job was taken over years ago by QM’s which resulted in lost of another couple sets of eyes. Just like celestial navigation was stopped being taught but that has been reversed

  • Jazawys

    So, what are the specific disciplinary actions taken on these 3 top officials? Will they be transferred to other fleet/ship of the navy?

    • Rob

      Shore duty in some desk job. No chance of promotion. All three will likely “retire” within the year.

      • Jazawys

        Sounds like a painful and grueling transition. I can’t imagine myself sustaining going from a sea captain living on the marine time to working in front of a computer on paperworks all day in a building confined on land. Yuck.

      • Refguy

        Maybe more; relief for cause doesn’t preclude additional action. Captain (probably) and Exec (certainly) haven’t been in for twenty and may not be allowed to stay that long.

  • tourist1

    this comment makes as much sense as that of @anolesboy. Disturbed.

  • waveshaper1

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the owners of the ACX Crystal eventually file a lawsuit against the US Government for damages. We will probably have to wait until all the final investigations are completed to determine if the Crystal might be partially culpable for this collision. If the Crystal is found not at fault the owners may have a legal leg to stand on and proceed with a lawsuit.

    Precedence for stuff like this. Remember the USS Porter collision with the Super Tanker in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf. (2012 timeframe). Excerpt (2014);

    A Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) and the US government reached a deal to settle the dispute over a collision between a warship and a tanker.

    US District Judge Katherine Forrest of the federal court in downtown New York approved the settlement and put an end to the lawsuit.

    Volts Shipping Navigation, the registered owner of the Japanese shipping giant’s 315,000-dwt Otowasan (built 2005), sued the federal government in August, two years after a collision between the VLCC and the USS Porter, a US Navy-guided missile destroyer.

    The company was seeking $1.74m in damages from the crash in the Strait of Hormuz.

    • dantheman

      Since Crystal was the burdened vessel they will not be suing anyone.

      ————————————————————————————

      The wire agency’s account is based on Capt. Ronald Advincula’s
      after-accident report to Dainichi Investment Corporation, the owner of
      the ACX Crystal. Advincula’s account could not be confirmed, but he asserted that:

      – USS Fitzgerald was on a crossing course;

      – ACX Crystal tried to signal the Fitzgerald with flashing lights;

      – Fitzgerald did not respond to light signals or take evasive action;

      – ACX Crystal steered hard to starboard to avoid collision;

      – ACX Crystal struck the Fitzgerald ten minutes after taking this evasive action;

      – the time of impact was about 0130 hours;

      – there was “confusion” on the Crystal’s bridge after the collision;

      – and the Crystal turned around to return to the scene of the accident after proceeding for another six nm.

      His account may conflict with AIS records of the ACX Crytal’s trackline: this data shows that the Crystal
      altered course slightly to port about ten minutes before the collision –
      not hard to starboard. Just after the reported time of impact, the Crystal’s AIS heading swung sharply to starboard.

      ————————————————————————————-

      Unless pigs & DDG’s can fly this collision was physically impossible based on Advincula’s statement.
      Without question Crystal was overtaking Fitzgerald and was the burdened vessel, but still have no clue why Fitz was so unaware.

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    Lol…. such abuse!

    Keep it coming kiddo.

  • Bullet[BS]

    We have the OOD, JOOD, Forward & Aft Lookouts, top of the line radar, GPS and this still happens? This what I would like to know.

  • smith

    Sad for the death of these sailors due to incompetence in their officers. More and more naval stories of poor leadership. Army generals giving away secrete information. Marine aircraft being lost. Yet these clowns in Washington think the current military leadership will be effective in North Korea… Time to wake up people!

  • dantheman

    Something is Rotten in Denmark, to whit:

    The wire agency’s account is based on Capt. Ronald Advincula’s
    after-accident report to Dainichi Investment Corporation, the owner of
    the ACX Crystal. Advincula’s account could not be confirmed, but he asserted that:

    – USS Fitzgerald was on a crossing course;

    – ACX Crystal tried to signal the Fitzgerald with flashing lights;

    – Fitzgerald did not respond to light signals or take evasive action;

    – ACX Crystal steered hard to starboard to avoid collision;

    – ACX Crystal struck the Fitzgerald ten minutes after taking this evasive action;

    – the time of impact was about 0130 hours;

    – there was “confusion” on the Crystal’s bridge after the collision;

    – and the Crystal turned around to return to the scene of the accident after proceeding for another six nm.

    His account may conflict with AIS records of the ACX Crytal’s trackline: this data shows that the Crystal
    altered course slightly to port about ten minutes before the collision –
    not hard to starboard. Just after the reported time of impact, the Crystal’s AIS heading swung sharply to starboard.

    ————————————————————————————-

    Unless pigs & DDG’s can fly this collision was physically impossible based on Advincula’s statement.
    Without question Crystal was overtaking Fitzgerald and was the burdened vessel, but still have no clue why Fitz was so unaware.

    • waveshaper1

      Good detailed info. About this; ” this data shows that the Crystal altered course slightly to port about ten minutes before the collision”. The reason the Crystal made this slight course adjustment to port was to stay in the inbound lane of the Mikomoto Shima Shipping Channel (this channel turns slowly to the north for ships inbound to Tokyo harbor).

      • dantheman

        I agree. Crystal’s courses were 090 – 070 – 180. Turn 070 to stay in the channel, turn 180 post-collision, not pre-collision. Fitzgerald either DIW or moving slowly, to be overtaken as she was. Advincula’s nonsense just to cover his butt. Hope we get to hear Fitzgerald’s watch officers side of the story before it’s over.

        • Duane

          Your conclusion makes no sense. The division commander relieved the CO, XO and command MCPO,not for their actions after the collision, but for their actions before. The div commander would not knee-jerk blame his own ship if it was clearly not at fault. The Navy knows exactly what the Fitz did and when they did it.

          Just because we don’t know the details, there is no reason to assume that the division commander would make a perversely illogical decision.

          What we know today is that the Fitz was the burdened vessel based on position, and its reported speed compared to the reported speed of the Crystal also makes it the higher speed and therefore burdened vessel. If those facts are confirmed by the Navy and US Coast Guard investigations, then the division commander’s decision makes perfect sense.

          But you are making declaratory statements here that are simply not backed up by the evidence released to you or anyone in the public, and statments that make no sense at all given the Navy’s decision to relieve the Fitz’s CO, XO, and senior enlisted member.

  • donjames911

    Staying on point (This post is about officers being relieved from command, not navigation errors), it is a time-honored international tradition that the CO be relieved in cases such as this, no matter his personal involvement.The Captain is responsible for EVERYTHING that happens aboard his ship. It is his duty to craft his crew into a unit he can totally trust whether awake on the bridge or asleep in his cabin. The XO is expected to be the man to carry out the CO’s orders, just as the CMC is expected to carry out the XO’s orders WRT the enlisted crew.

    And Gary Rehm did not GIVE his life, he LOST his life in a heroic effort to save shipmates.

    • Curtis Conway

      I’m wondering if the IC-man (or whatever they are called today) still do the Daily-1 on the 1MC right after colors (General, Chemical, Collision, & Flight Crash). Verifies the functionality of all the major alarms, and reminds ship’s company of what alarms sound like daily. We do that at refineries across the country at noon every day typically. Then making sure the OOD knows he is supposed to keep the crew (awakened from sleep, or not) aware of the dangers the ship is about to experience!

    • Duane

      The CO is not automatically relieved in every naval incident.

      In this particular case the division commander stated that based upon the evidence he reviewed, he no longer had confidence in the commanders of the Fitz. That is pretty cut and dried. They did something wrong, and they were not just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  • BillMFl

    Container ships are deceptively fast. One possibility is the watch commander on duty ordered a gradual turn to port thinking the cargo ship was both slower and further away. If the container ship was closing fast and was already relatively close, a gradual turn would result in a glancing blow to starboard. It is hard to imagine the watch commander not being aware of the approaching very large ship. It is more likely he reacted too late, too slowly, too minimally, or some combination of these. It is also possible time was wasted trying to contact the bridge of the container ship. Having had close encounters with this type of shop while crossing from Miami to the Bahamas I can tell these big ships travel relatively fast for their size, are lightly manned on the bridge at night, have a preset course on their nav system and do not alter course quickly or willingly. Time is money for them. As for who was burdened, if there is an intersecting course both had a duty to avoid collision. Most likely there was dereliction of duty by officers on both ships.

  • Given the general intentions and directions of the two ships, it is likely the warship burdened with the container ship on its starboard side and crossing. Ideally, the warship would have determined it would cross astern of the containership, just before the collision.

    While this may be true, the container ship apparently adjusted course to port without being aware of the burdened ship on its port side, or perhaps assuming that the burdened ship was still burdened even if the container ship adjusted course “slightly” to port, frustrating the warship’s efforts to stand clear and pass astern of the container ship.

    If more senior/experienced officers had been on the bridge, either bridge, the collision would likely have been avoided based on a more cautious perspective that includes being aware of what the other ship might be trying to do. Note that the containership had the distraction of an island to its starboard so may not have been aware of the warship bearing down at relatively high speed to port, where all traffic is viewed as being burdened.

    The warship at 20 knots in a southerly direction vs probably (a guess) 12 to 18 knots for the containership in the easterly direction suggests conditions where both ships were surprised at the overall result. Having changed course during a crossing situation, the containership may be technically at fault, but it was still incumbent on the warship to steer well clear and pass behind the containership.

    Thus, a lack of experience more than a lack of training of those responsible on each bridge (in darkness) is the likely root cause of the collision. Nevertheless, the US Navy will/has come down hard on the warship’s leadership for this extraordinary outcome. There are “no excuses” in the US Navy for such outcomes.

    • Duane

      It seems rather evident that the Fitz watch party did not understand that it was on a collision path with the ACX Crystal, given that at no time was a collision alarm sounded, according to this official naval report. It is inconceivable that the watch party and OOD, having perceived a potential collision, would not have sounded the collision alarm. If they did perceive an imminent collision threat and still didn’t sound the alarm, then the OOD and others on the bridge were extremely derelict in their duties.

      The whole accident seems inconceivable,to be honest

      • All true. Based on the diagram at Figure 4, as well as the likely scenario of the warship and containership movements already discussed, it appears that the warship had indeed turned to port just before impact to try to avoid the collision. It is simply unfortunate that the OOD had probably concluded (and was probably told by the CIC surface watch) that they were OK and would pass astern of the containership.

        If the warship had not turned (left full rudder?), given their original courses, the warship would have been hit at a more perpendicular angle and perhaps suffered far more damage, even sunk. The bridge watch was likely too consumed with an emergency turn to sound the collision alarm (not often practiced, anyway), and sounding it after the collision was a bit redundant as everyone needed to go to GQ to deal with an obvious collision. I think the report said the collision alarm was only sounded for 2 seconds and secured (either deliberately or due to a loss of power).

        The bridge team then had to rescue the captain.

  • waveshaper1

    A few tidbits from the 41 page navy investigation report (you can Google it);
    – The only means of communications that Fitz had to get word back to their HQ that they had been involved in a collision was by “one of the crewmember personnel cellphones”. By the time they contacted their HQ the Japanese Coast Guard was already in route to the accident via notification from the Crystal.
    – The person on the USS Fitzgerald who was in-charge of the post collision damage control/rescue/etc was a “Female Officer”.
    – Lots, lots more good info, etc,

  • LK Wangerin

    If one is on a course of 088-090 and the other 230, by my reckoning they are almost on opposite courses coming at one another head to head and not overtaking. If I take the collision diagram and assume the merchant ship is on course 88, then the Fitz is on a course of 130. What am I missing? Somewhere it is noted that the Fitz is coming in on the outbound lane, per orders, and required to stay a mile to the side. The Crystal is coming out of the outbound lane. On the bridge I rode we traced all blips on our radar repeater with black marker and stayed out on the wings with alidades and binoculars (1963-64 vintage) still on 1945 ships in the Med, in the Persian Gulf and around India. The three little white ships of COMIDEASTFOR survived 1947-1967.
    Imagine, it took a damned cell phone for the boss to find out what had happened. As for more heads to fall, how about the OPS/CIC officers, and maybe a bit farther up the chain, and happened in the Gulf. After all, who is responsible for qualifying each ship as ready for duty. Any signal bridge types on deck? They were always the best eyes we had because they were on their signal lamps at any opportunity. It was fun to watch a merchant ship have to wake someone up to return our signal. I was surprised to hear of a senior chief being thrown out with the dishwater. Not sure if I have added or distracted.

  • james flynn

    Conning a ship, in any condition, is deadly business. Lookouts, an alert helmsman and an officer checking the radar, traffic, course and plot will usually get the job done with a minimum of chit chat..
    A ship’s bridge is not a social gathering..

  • james flynn

    This is a serious discussion, good men have lost their lives..Best to spout what you know from the facts presented than what you ‘think’ or feel…

  • james flynn

    Regardless the Crystal captain’s comments to his company. He was not on the bridge at the time of the collision, propably in the sack, three hours prior to arrival..
    On the bridge would be the 12-4 watch, junior third mate, someone, possibly, with many years sea time, a helmsman and a lookout or two..I doubt the ship was on hand steering but on autopilot for the arrival destination…the pilot pickup..This is SOP regards most Captain’s night orders….So let’s hear from the Crystal bridge watch.
    Certain their testimony will come out in litigation..

  • Harry Cracke

    Donald Trump has made the 3 officers now head of his army, navy and air force at Camp F Troop.

  • Capoman

    No surprise there, the Skipper’s career was toast as soon as the collision happened. Relieving the XO & the Senior Chief is certainly a clean sweep. The Skipper always takes the blame.

  • rcb1053

    Does not matter what we on the sidelines think may or may not have happened, the navy based its decision from an on going investigation by the board. It was that way when I was in (early 1970s) it is that way now. These crews train for this type of situation. Every action is based on established Naval Regs.

  • dantheman

    I’ve just read the report. We now have Fitzgerald’s course/speed
    which helps immensely, if it’s correct. The first issue that jumps out
    to me is the initial entry in the Supplemental Timeline. “0000 FTZ
    underway in the SEA OF JAPAN on the way to Subic.” Unfortunately the
    collision occurred in the Pacific Ocean, south of Japan, approximately
    200 miles from the Sea of Japan. This is not a typo and it’s not a
    great way to establish cred. The USN should know where the Sea of Japan is. Therefore I’m taking everything in the report with a small grain of salt.

    The “overtaking” scenario is defunct, replaced by a “meeting” scenario. Fitz 230, Crystal 070, is
    20 degrees from a straight line reciprocal (nearly reciprocal.) Ships are port to port,
    both vessels are burdened even though Fitzgerald’s SW track crosses Crystal’s NE track.

    (Rule 14 states “(a)����Unless otherwise agreed when
    two power-driven vessels are meeting on reciprocal or nearly reciprocal
    courses so as to involve risk of collision each shall alter her course
    to starboard so that each shall pass on the port side of the other.)

    From this point of view, a Fitzgerald turn to port and a Crystal turn to
    starboard, is the only plausible explanation for the damage
    configuration on both vessels and may explain Advincula’s claim.

    “ACX Crystal steered hard to starboard to avoid collision;
    ACX Crystal struck the Fitzgerald ten minutes after taking this evasive action”

    Meeting situations are tricky for sure; if Fitz turned to port instead of starboard…..

    What do you think?

    • dantheman

      Meeting starboard to starboard is the trickiest of them all. This could explain Fitzgerald’s port turn. Leaves the question as to why CO in his cabin with vessel on collision course open.

      • dantheman

        Try this. CO is incapacitated. He wasn’t even in the sea cabin, but in his in port cabin. This has mystified me from day one.

    • waveshaper1

      Yep, they definitely got that “Sea of Japan” part wrong. Hopefully that was just a typo but it does make the info in the official US Navy 41 page report suspect. The collision actually happened 56 nautical miles (104 KM; 64 miles) southwest of Yokosuka, Japan; 10 nautical miles (19 km; 12 miles) southeast of the city of Shimoda.

    • Refguy

      Most plausible explanation so far. At least one ship was out of its lane, as others have stated; which one?

  • Kenneth Millstein

    There they go again, scape-goading the Captain, the Exec. and the Master Chief. I know the Captain is always responsible (I myself delivered night orders to my Captain) but isn’t it about time the Navy started applying blame for these awful events to the actual people who were awake and on the bridge or not. Remember when the Navy put the full blame on Captain Moosally of the USS Iowa when the 16″ gun turret blew up. He didn’t load the powder bags, but he was blown up by the Navy anyway which ended a four strippers career. Why do this to people. God knows how much money the tax payers spent on the training of these outstanding men of the Navy. Give them a break and just figure out what happened and then let these outstanding men and woman of the crew of Fitzgerald carry on their careers. What is accomplished by ruining their lives?

  • Ed L

    Almost most 40 Years ago while on a NATO cruise, our ship was operating with an Aircraft Carrier in the North Sea. I was a BM2 getting ready to make 1st and taking a turn as the Messdecks Master of Arms. At that time it was 4 am and i was up on the Focle chatting with a couple of the Chiefs having coffee before waking the messcooks up. We saw the Aircraft carrier ahead and It look like we were CBDR. I recently qualify as ESWS and the Navigation that I learned along with 8 years of standing watches in a pilothouse. Made the hairs on my neck stand up. Then I heard over the 1MC
    “Captain to the Bridge”. The newly minted 3rd class BM who was standing BMOW remember what the Captains night orders said. And called for the Captain when it appeared to him that the OOD and JOOD were confused. We were CBDR to the Carrier and close enough when our Engines went into full astern that I could clearly see the watch standers on the Bridge and Flag Bridge of the Carrier. OOD and JOOD were both sent back to under instruction watches. That young 3rd class BM stayed in the Navy and retired as an LOD LCDR.

  • Ed L

    could someone explain to me why the Command Master Chief was relief?

  • waveshaper1

    Well we just had another collision. The USS John McCain just collided with a
    merchant ship;

    Excerpt (multiple sources);
    – Search and rescue efforts
    were underway Monday morning after the USS John S. McCain collided with a
    merchant ship, the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a notice.
    – The ship, a
    guided-missile destroyer, was involved in the collision while on its way to
    Singapore for a routine port visit, the notice said. The incident happened east
    of Singapore and the Strait of Malacca, the 7th Fleet said.
    – The note also
    said initial reports indicated the destroyer sustained damage to its port
    side.

  • Wayne Van Scoyoc

    Maneuvering Board is required officer training and Constant Bearing Decreasing Range calculations are drummed into all Navy Officers. I’ll say this, I found it easy with an Engineering Degree and endless vector and vector calculus problem sets in College, but many others had a lot of problems with it.