Home » Budget Industry » Destroyer USS Benfold Back in Yokosuka with ‘Slight Dent’ After Tug Collision

Destroyer USS Benfold Back in Yokosuka with ‘Slight Dent’ After Tug Collision

USS Benfold (DDG-65), left, and the Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO-197) participate in a photo exercise during Pacific Griffin 2017 off the coast of Guam. US Navy Photo

The guided-missile destroyer that collided with a tugboat off the coast of Japan is back at its homeport on Monday, a U.S. 7th Fleet spokesperson told USNI News.

USS Benfold (DDG-65) returned to Yokosuka, Japan after the warship collided with a tugboat during a towing exercise in the Sagami Bay on Saturday.

An evaluation of the damage on the warship found “minimal scrapes” and a “slight dent” in the starboard slightly aft of amidships, according to 7th Fleet.

USNI News has learned that the collision occurred while both ships were moving at low speeds while the towline between the two ships was loosened. The loose line became wrapped in the propeller of the Japanese tug and caused it to lose propulsion and drift into Benfold. The incident is under investigation and it is unclear how long the ship, assigned to the forward-deployed Destroyer Squadron 15, maybe pier side.

While the collision is minor, it comes as the Navy is struggling with the aftermath of two fatal collisions between destroyers and merchant ships in the Western Pacific that claimed the lives of 17 sailors. The collisions of USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) also caused hundreds of millions in damage to the ships and will keep them sidelined for months for repairs.

The Navy is instituting changes found in a fleet-wide comprehensive review of the surface navy that was released in early November. A strategic review of U.S. surface forces, led by the Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer, is due out early next month.

  • leroy

    A small accident. No one should lose their job over this, but we do exercises like these to learn, and learn we did! Now – re-evaluate how to work with tugs. Who would’a thought a rope getting wrapped around the prop when a little slack is let out? If anything that’s the tug’s responsibility. Of course, if I’m off-base here and a procedure wasn’t followed, if this has occurred in the past (I’m sure it has – many times) let the non ship-driver readers know.

    • waveshaper1

      Here, I first posted this yesterday; If folks want to actually see how this type of incident happens in a towing situation then Google; “Youtube – US NAVY ships crash at sea Part 1”.
      – This video covers a (close up and personal) Tow Exercise involving the USS Downes and the USS Fletcher that didn’t go as planned. The video shows the tow line getting tangled in the prop/shaft and the end result is a wee bit of bumping/damage to both ships.

    • Rocco

      Agreed, but this day & age with everything under scrutiny this minor insidental accident is already big news when normally it wouldn’t be a big deal!! . They better learn fast because doing an unrep would be more critical with fuel lines across each other.

  • Bill Ridings

    Having done this very exercise several times in my career, I hold Benfield responsible….she could have maneuvered to avoid contact, yet she let a vessel not under command hit her? Wouldn’t have happened if I was the OOD.

    • Rocco

      Yes emergency breakaway should of been called!!

      • CHENG1087

        Have you ever been involved with a “tow and be towed” training exercise?

        • Rocco


          • CHENG1087

            Why?? Oh, nothing in particular — just curious as to what combination of rudder and engine orders you would give in executing an “emergency breakaway” during a botched “tow and be towed” exercise.

          • Rocco

            That would depend on the situation at had as everyone is different!! A smart OOD & chief deck officer use common sense to avoid collision!!. When going along side bumper guards should of been deployed. Now things change based on sea conditions.

          • Duane

            Where would you have placed the “bumper guards” (i.e., fenders) on the DDG? It was being towed by bow by the tug, but the tug messed up by fouling its prop with the slack towing cable, and we do know that it bumped the DDG amidships.

            Would you line both topsides of the DDG, from stem to stern, with fenders? Of course the tug itself is normally lined around its entire topside perimeter with fenders.

            How would a smart DDG OOD know that the tug would mess up, foul its own towing cable, and then be pulled (by the no longer slack towing cable still attached to the bow of the DDG) to exactly amidships on the DDG?

            It may well be that the OOD and bridge crew and linehandling crew of the DDG made errors. But we have no facts at hand to prove that one way or the other.

          • Rocco

            Where ever necessary!! The OOD has to be ready for any situation as he’s responsible for any mishaps!

          • USNVO

            There are several things we don’t know about the event.

            – Who screwed up with the towline. There are several ways that the towline could foul the screw and several of them are the result of the receiving ship. Not to cast blame anywhere and these things are training evolutions, but the tug does this everyday, the ship maybe one every two years unless this was one of the evolutions that was waivered, then it could be years since the last time it was done. So don’t rush to blame the tug.

            – Once the screw is fouled, there are several things we don’t know such as was the towline still attached to the anchor chain and if so, how much was payed out? I am not well versed on the tow rig for the DDGs, but if the towline was under tension, releasing it absent cutting the line can be extremely dangerous and time consuming. Additionally, you can’t really maneuver until the line is released. Hard to know what was happening on the focsle but as long as the two ships are connected, there is little the DDG can do to avoid the collision.

            – In a evolution like this, there are always multiple failures. Even on a successful evolution, there are multiple failures, they just don’t cascade or someone catches it in time. It is why you practice.

            Final thought. In the 93-94 timeframe, a Pearl Harbor tug punched a hole in the Kirishima while making up to them prior to mooring. It is not like the side plating is all that strong. A few dents and scrapes indicates it was pretty minor.

          • Duane

            USNVO – yessir on all of the above. The details of what happened remain undisclosed. Likely the Navy brass know already, at least the direct details. As far as contributing factors (state of officer and crew training, physical and mental state of those engaged in the evolution, use of procedures, etc.) that will probably require a full investigation.

            Just as in the recent collisions of the Fitz and McCain, a certain crowd wants to grind their particular ax, regardless of the facts, using the incidents as their excuse to do so. One of the most common refrains was “overreliance on newfangled electronic stuff”, repeated endlessly in these threads here at USNI and elsewhere. Despite ther being zero public evidence of such. When the multiple incident reports were released, lo and behold, there was zero evidence of “overreliance on newfangled electronic stuff.

            Over and over, it was “Fire! Ready! Aim!” … “facts, we don’ need no damn facts, we already know the answers and what is to blame!”

            Instead, it was a host of other factors, including the officers and crews simply not properly operating the electronics they had, or even simply not knowing how to operate the steering gear, for goshsakes! Poor training, poor compliance with training certs, poor management of the watchbill (putting unqualified operators on the helm!!!), sloppy communications, too little sleep. But nothing about those doohickeys that somehow are supposed to lure sailors into not doing their jobs.

    • Rocco


    • Duane

      Easy to say from the comfort of your home.

      We don’t know many details yet, but we do know that the tug had dropped aft, in parallel with the DDG (but we don’t know exactly how far abeam) with the towing cable eased to create slack, with both vessels underway ahead at slow speed … then the towing cable got wrapped around the tug’s prop causing it to lose propulsion, and effectively turned the tug from the towing vessel into the towed vessel. Depending upon how much separation there was between the ships, it may have been impossible for the DDG to maneuver in such a way as to prevent the now-towed tug from bumping into the DDG sideways amidships (we know that last part is true).

      As always, we need to wait for all the relevant facts to come out before making judgments.

      It is quite possible, if not likely, that any radical maneuvers (rudder or power) by the DDG would only have made the collision much worse than the extremely minor “fender bender” that actually occurred.