Home » Documents » Document: Report on the Collision Between USS Lake Champlain (CG-57) and Fishing Vessel Nam Yang 502


Document: Report on the Collision Between USS Lake Champlain (CG-57) and Fishing Vessel Nam Yang 502

The following is a Nov. 30, 2017, Navy report on the May 9, 2017, collision between USS Lake Champlain (CG-57) and a fishing vessel, which the Navy determined was avoidable.

Introduction

USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN (CG 57) collided with fishing vessel NAM YANG 502 on 9 May 2017 in the Sea of Japan.

LAKE CHAMPLAIN is a Ticonderoga Class Guided Missile Cruiser homeported in San Diego, California. Approximately 400 Sailors serve aboard LAKE CHAMPLAIN. LAKE CHAMPLAIN is 567 feet in length, 55 feet wide, and carries a gross tonnage of approximately 10,200 tons.

NAM YANG 502 is a fishing vessel with an unknown crew size. NAM YANG 502 is approximately 60 feet in length, 15 feet wide, and carries a gross tonnage of approximately 10 tons. NAM YANG 502 was en route to the Republic of Korea prior to the collision.

The collision between LAKE CHAMPLAIN and NAM YANG 502 resulted in no injuries. Each vessel sustained minor hull damage.

Summary of Findings

The Navy determined that numerous failures occurred on the part of watchstanders as follows:

 Failure to execute basic watchstanding practices.

 Failure to adhere to sound navigation practices.

 Failure to properly use available navigation tools.

 Failure to respond deliberately and effectively when in extremis.

  • john

    I don’t understand, something is 2.7 miles from you and you lose the track? This was at noontime, send somebody outside to look for it! If you want to be fancy give him some binoculars. Also I don’t know where something is so I will execute a series of random speed and course changes, you know just to make it interesting.

  • JohnByron

    Can’t anyone in the surface navy drive a ship?

    • Tom Lemon

      they rely too heavily on the Aegis system and radar.

      • JohnByron

        Maybe, but still required by law and regulation to keep a proper lookout, adhere to the rules of the road, and not hazard a naval ship.

        Having spent many a happy hour on bridge radars, listening to calls from CIC, and flying from bridge wing to bridge wing with the 8x50s in my hands … I find it dumbfounding that these kids in khaki (hard to call them naval officers) simply cannot do their jobs.

        And that the surface navy refuses to take on the wholesale reform in training and the assurance of readiness that circumstances demand. Unsat.

  • Rob C

    These guys should be forced to server on active Merchant Marine ships brush up their skills.
    I think it was a mistake transfer the active service Auxiliaries to Merchant Marines. Their responsibilities of manning the con and keeping tight control of a ship during unrep operations was important enough they paid extra attention to the watch standers skills. With cost saving, more doing simulation work…i don’t think the actually crews are getting the hours needed to actually get the feel of driving a ship.

  • Western

    I am ashamed and profoundly embarrassed for my Navy. What have you done to become this ineffective? What reasonable parent would send their child to sea with this bunch?
    General Mattis, please, please, fix this.

    • incredulous1

      We need to relieve Richardson and stop rewarding people with nonsense ideas.

  • RobM1981

    We need to retrofit all of the Burkes with tugboat fenders, permanently affixed to the hull. Unlike a tug, the destroyers should have the fenders wrapped completely around the hull…

    • incredulous1

      Is that what we are going to call the next class of frigates? John Paul Jones?

      • RobM1981

        Oops! Fixed it…

    • BillyP

      I think an outfit of 6m x 3m Yokohama fenders (complete with tyre and chain net), strung all the way down port and starboard side should adequately protect the larger maritime community against being sideswiped by USN vessels – just so long as they don’t acquire the ramming habit! This would also assist with the evidently fragile, ‘made of Saran’ nature of the USN vessels’ hulls.

  • proudrino

    Probably a more damning report than either the Fitzgerald or McCain incidents. Reading through the findings, I have to wonder just what the heck the watchstanders were doing because they were NOT standing watch.

    • Tom Lemon

      pretty simple actually. there are no lookouts. Time to court martial the entire signal gang too. Oh wait, that rate has been disbanded since 2003 because…. well, we don’t need no stinkin signalmen.

  • FromTheMirror

    Based on that track they just kept zig-zagging in front of the Korean dumbo until they managed to get T-boned. I can downright see the Korean peons looking out and trying to figure what the fuq the other guy was doing – I suppose they were working up for the Magnum Opus yet to come with the Fitz and the Cain.

    • BillyP

      Where can one view the track, please?

      • FromTheMirror

        It was there in the report – you had to scroll down quite a bit and enlarge, but it was there.

  • Duane

    There was a heckuva lot of information left unsaid in this report, apparently for legal reasons.

    Such as were there visual lookouts posted once the boat was sighted on radar and electro-optical sights? Visibility was pretty good at 3 to 9 miles in daylight. At various times radar contact was lost, which seems a bit odd as the sea conditions were reported as light chop – hardly anything that would obscure a sea going fishing vessel from a correctly-operated surface search radar.

    This report just has some vague references to poor watchstanding practices and poor communications internally on the Lake Champlain. Not much if anything said about the poor judgment of the OOD in not giving the fishing vessel a wide birth once its general track was determined by the onboard sensors.

    From the three tracks illustrated, it appears that the Lake Champlain was mostly concerned about maintaining station with the carrier, regardless of the surface contact that was tracking in between them.

    It also seems that the Vinson, as flagship of the formation which dictated the maneuvers of its escorts had a role in this incident too. The Vinson was aware of the fishing vessel, having had the contract reported to it by Champlain (if not already sensed itself). There should have been a coordinated maneuver involving all three ships in the formation in order to give the fisherman a wide berth, as commanded by the Vinson’s OOD.

    Yet the Vinson seems to have escaped any notice or responsibility in this report. Looks like the admiral is covering for the senior commander and his ship.

    • CHENG1087

      The two escorts were “sector screening” the carrier. The ROKN DDG had the sector 000-090, 10K-20K yards from the CVN. The USN CG had the sector 180-270, 10K-20K from the CVN. The escorts were free to — and expected to — maneuver independently within their assigned sectors. It is not appropriate to maneuver a 20 NM wide formation to avoid a 60 foot long fishing boat that is maintaining a constant course and speed. The CVN bears no responsibility for this hapless collision.

      • Duane

        I didn’t say 20 mi. Something maybe a little more than zero miles, or zero feet, would be appropriate, though … don’t you think?

        Yes, naval convoys need to coordinate movements so that they do not collide with other vessels. Even fishing boats. Otherwise, this post would not have been published, and the Navy would not have bothered to investigate a collision at sea with a foreign vessel.

        • CHENG1087

          I don’t understand your point. Draw the “formation” — it is twenty nautical miles across. Sector screens are designed to be randomly patrolled by the escorts, as long as they do not depart their assigned “slice of the pie.” I’ll say it again — the CG had the responsibility to deal with the Korean fishing boat, in accordance with the COLREGS. This mystifying collision is solely the blame of the CG. The CVN is blameless.

          • Duane

            The point is that the CG was required to remain on station, at the specified offset range from the CVN, mirroring its turns. From the plot of all three ships, it is clear that the CG did exactly that, without regard to the traffic that was steaming right between the CVN and the CG. The CVN was aware of the contact (as reported by the CG), as was the CG, but the OOD of the CVN did not make any effort to coordinate with the CG to enable both ships to avoid the collision. As the “junior vessel”, the CG should have requested clearance to maneuver well clear of the contact, but there was also a senior leadership responsibility of the CVN OOD to clear the CG to maneuver clear of the contact while still remaining reasonably close to its prescribed offset from the CVN.

            In other words, the three ships of the formation should have coordinated. And the CVN, being the senior ship of the formation, had the greater command responsibility, once aware of the contact on a potential collision course, to enure that its juniors were accounting for the contact properly.

            Because nobody did any of the above, an extremely embarrassing, damaging, and potentially fatal collision was the result. Because the admiral’s report made no mention whatsoever of the CVN’s role as the senior ship in the formation, that’s some butt covering for the senior officer.

          • CHENG1087

            Where to begin? (1). Do you understand the concept of a sector screen? The CG’s assigned sector covered nearly sixty (60!) square miles of open ocean. She was free to maneuver anywhere within that very large sector. She was not required to “mirror” the CVN’s turns, and absolutely SHOULD NOT have been doing so. That is the fundamental logic of sector screens, which are carefully designed to maximize the AAW and/or ASW strengths and weaknesses of the individual ships assigned to the sector. (2). What do you mean by “junior vessel” and “requested clearance”? There is no “junior/senior” relationship between ships in a USN battle group. (This “junior/senior” concept is appropriate to rendering passing honors, or to sorting out relative positions in a nest of Tin Cans alongside a pier). Screening ships don’t ask “permission” to maneuver within their assigned sector. The CG was completely unrestrained to maneuver at will, provided she remained within that very large sector. Ships in this type of formation (the standard for the past 60+ years) routinely maneuver randomly, and without question, to avoid collision. (3). Do you understand the wide ranging responsibilities of the Officer of the Deck (OOD)? The CVN OOD had NO responsibility to oversee the actions of the CG OOD. The CVN OOD was responsible for the “deck” of the CVN, not the “deck” of the CG. (4). For the third and final time, the CVN was blameless. (5). The First Law of Holes is: “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

          • Duane

            My understanding is very simple and clear: look at the plot. The CG was mirroring all of the CVN’s turns at the distance shown. The CG continued that until it collided with the surface contact.

            You can argue all you want about surface screens, and say that she was NOT required to mirror all the CVN turns. I don’t disagree with you on that.

            But is is incontrovertible that the CG DID mirror all the CVN turns until it collided with a known surface contact steaming right down the middle of the “fairway” between the two ships. And THAT was the problem.

          • CHENG1087

            So the CVN shared responsibility for the collision? If that’s what you believe, please share your thought process that leads you to that conclusion. What was the the CVN’s required course of action, and how did the carrier fail to perform?

          • Duane

            Teams share the responsibility of team actions. Leaders of the team have the greatest share of responsibility – that’s what it means to be the leader of a team. The CVN’s OOD was the leader of the three ship formation, knowing full well that the primary role of its escorts were and are to protect the CVN. To leave them out of the circle of responsibilty, when the CVN had extensive knowledge of the collision hazard its team faced, is nothing but butt covering.

          • CHENG1087

            The Second Law of Holes: When all else fails, remember the First Law.

          • TPF1

            This retired SWO says negative. The carrier maneuvers for wind to launch/recover aircraft, and the escort ships maneuver in their sectors at will. CHENG1087 is correct that the CVN bears no responsibility for this collision. It is poor seamanship plain and simple.

          • TPF1

            This retired SWO totally agrees with CHENG1087’s assessment.

          • Ed L

            Actually if you look at it from a WW2 perspective the cruiser stood in harms way and protected the carrier

      • BillyP

        Surely you are NOT implying that naval vessels travelling in formation can ignore the fundamental rules of the road? If a “a 60 foot long fishing boat that is maintaining a constant course and speed.” then obey the rules or it will collide with one or the other – or is it really a case of “If it’s grey, stay away”?
        For shame.

        • CHENG1087

          If you re-read my comments, you will see that I am NOT implying that. “And my name’s not Shirley!” My point is that a fishing boat that is on a constant course and speed, that is held visually and on radar for over an hour, should never be a “fundamental rules of the road” problem for a USN cruiser that is free to roam anywhere it chooses within its assigned 60 square mile sector.

          • BillyP

            Thanks, Shirley – my thinking is clearer now!

          • BillyP

            G’day, Shirl! I’ve been looking at the Report in more detail.
            When we examine the track charts we find some strange things – over and above the contradictory Helm orders of the LAKE CHAMPLAIN: ‘Hard A-Starboard!’ ‘No, I mean Hard A-Port”, etc. there is her erratic speed: 5 Knots at 1012, then 13, then 17, then 18 at 1029; then 17 at 1033, then 8 knots at 1053, then 10, then 12 at 1103; 17 knots at 1125, 10 at 1136, then 11, finally 18 knots at 1149. This course/speed profile would defeat even the most competent and adept collision avoidance computer system!
            But we haven’t finished: the Report in its Timeline shows the NAM YONG maintaining a steady course of ~230° at a speed of 12 knots – which it sustained until, the collision. For some reason the text of the Report describes the NAM YONG as proceeding in a southeasterly direction: I can, just about understand how an ill-trained and marginally competent bridge team could, in the heat of the event, get their southwest and southeast confused (not once, but twice! – at 1055 & 1129), but the officials at the Enquiry? the editors and proofreaders?
            More to come …

          • BillyP

            Turning our attention to the track chart:
            The NAM YONG maintained its course and speed (until close to the time of impact), albeit for reasons that we do not know. As she was the Stand On Vessel for some of the time, that was correct – at other times, when the LAKE CHAMPLLAIN had performed more gyrations, she could be deemed to be the Give Way Vessel. If I’d been the skipper of the NAM YONG, I’d have taken early action to stay clear of this rogue vessel. Mind you, at about 1145 if I’d been the OOD on the LAKE CHAMPLAIN with the NAM YONG off my port bow somewhere, target sort-a, kind-a tracked, I’d have sounded five short blasts and then taken a round turn to starboard and passed under the NAM YONG’s stern (again); I’d also have had at least one more shaft in operation!.
            BTW sounding five short blasts in and of itself does not resolve anything – usually, with a competent OOD that sound signal is followed by firm and drastic action to avoid collision e.g by turning right away from the other vessel.

          • BillyP

            Finally,
            Why this obsession with using bridge-to-bridge radio to make contact with the target (maybe) in order to effect a mishap-free passing? For decades it has been widely known in the nautical world, and commented on by various Marine Accident Investigation agencies, e.g. “Valuable time can be wasted whilst mariners on vessels approaching each other try to make contact on VHF radio instead of complying with the Collision Regulations” [Marine Guidance Note MGN 167 (M + F), Maritime and Coastguard Agency, January 2001]. Other warnings address the dangers of ships being unable to identify, without ambiguity, the identity of the vessel with which they are speaking. Yet the LAKE CHAMPLAIN spent valuable time and resources on multiple attempts to speak the NAM YONG.
            This issue has cropped up in one or more of the other recent collision incidents. IMHO the Court was deficient in NOT censuring the LAKE CHAMPLAIN for engaging in this dangerous procedure.

          • CHENG1087

            Hi BillyP,
            Shirl here. I think we (and many others on this chain) may be succumbing to the disease of over-analysis. We are trying to apply logic to a truly bizarre, unprofessional situation. We don’t have the logs or the detailed tracks of either the CG or the CVN, and we probably never will. But I’ve come to the conclusion that the CG’s OOD, and the JOOD, and the TAO, and the entire CIC watch team somehow believed that the CG was in a point station, and not a sector screen. How else to explain their apparently slavish mirroring of the CVN’s movements? It appears to me to simply be a protracted period of “gray matter flatulance” on both the bridge and in CIC on the CG. Just a relentless, myopic case of the stupids. Every mistake they made invariably led to a larger, more serious chain of mistakes. I have seen serious situations like this dissolve into pandemonium on the bridge. I’m betting exactly that happened on the CG bridge in the minutes before collision. It takes a level head to survive a true “in extremis” situation, and it doesn’t look like there was one of those on that CG bridge in those vital final moments. “Shirl ”

          • BillyP

            Hi Shirl,
            Very true, O Wise One! I must confess that I have spent way too much time analysing incomplete data – but, in mitigation, I repeat my late Scottish mother’s description of these things: “The fascination of the truly horrible”.
            I managed to complete my seagoing career without leaving my mark on any chart (‘Bill’s Blunder’ or ‘Porritt’s Shoals’, etc) – possibly by ensuring the LAKE CHAMPLAIN-type shambles never occurred under my command.
            “Grey matter flatulence” – I love it. Can I use it?

      • BillyP

        So it is ” … not appropriate to manoeuver … to avoid a 60 foot long fishing boat …” Really? What if it had been a 280k dwt VLCC, loaded? Ignore that also, hope for the best?
        Or are you saying the OOD of the escort should have manoeuvred to avoid the target and then resumed station? But didn’t. And nobody noticed? Or cared?

        • CHENG1087

          What does your “… not appropriate to maneuver … to avoid a 60 foot long fishing boat …” mean? If you are going to quote me, please note that you omitted a very important part of that sentence. Re-insert “… a 20 NM wide formation …” at your middle “ … “ and I think you MAY see my original point. There is specific meaning to the notion of the coordinated maneuvering of an entire formation (changing base course/speed, reorienting a screen, etc.). Please re-read the full chain of these comments, and I think you will see that you apparently agree with me. Maneuvering an entire formation is a planned, often complicated evolution. It is choreography at sea. But an individual ship within ANY formation is absolutely REQUIRED to comply with the COLREGS, independent of what the rest of her formation is doing. But this really becomes a moot point when she is in a 60 square NM sector where she is absolutely free to maneuver independently of the guide. There was no excuse to mindlessly collide with that Korean fishing boat. The CG was in a sector screen, and was NOT “tethered” to the CVN by a fixed range and bearing “station.”

          • BillyP

            You are right of course – I guess I was, (still am) completely unable to understand what the CG’s bridge team were doing, were thinking – not only those 16 long minutes, but evidently all along.
            I haven’t been able see the track charts – are they available somewhere? Perhaps, just maybe, that would enable a bit more understanding on my part: with only the info to hand their actions are incomprehensible.

          • CHENG1087

            I’m with you there, BillyP. Though not very detailed, the schematic on page 5 of the report suggests pretty clearly that the CG considered herself in to be a point station, rather than free to roam in a very large sector. Perhaps the CG OOD was slavishly committed to “formation flying” (a la the Blue Angels), and “flew” right into that fisherman. The “Findings” section of the report is grim reading, particularly section 4.2 (Seamonship and Navigation). Curiously, the report does not mention a Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD), but uses the term OOD(U/I) (under instruction), which is not a formal watchstation. Looks like a case of the “blind leading the blind.” I hope the OOD wasn’t the CG’s Senior Watch Officer.

    • BillyP

      Are we to infer that, when a vessel is steaming in formation she does not have a lookout posted as a matter of routine? Does an OOD of the escorting vessel only required to maintain bearing & distance from the main unit – and that’s it? No matter what is encountered?

  • Ed L

    Where were our Frigates that were on outer screen patrol? Oh that’s rights we have no Frigates and the LCS’s were not available

    • Duane

      AEGIS-equipped DDGs and CGs are the normal escorts for CVNs. They provide the multiple capabilities including the critical area air defenses needed to protect CVNs from missile attacks. Frigates never provided that capability in the US Navy, and LCS were not tasked with that either.

  • Ed L

    I don’t understand this lack of ability and training on our ships. Who is training the enlisted watchstanders? In my day as an LPO of a deck division I and other petty officers who were not on the underway watch bill would make daily visits to the lookouts, pilothouse and aft steering stations. I would find a discrete spot and observe. If I was new to a ship I would actually stand at least 2 or 3 watches ( usually a dog watch ) taking a rotation at helm and lee helm. So I could see what Nuances were happening

  • Refguy

    If I read the timeline correctly, Vinson held radar and AIS tracks on the fishing boat continuously from 1031 until the time of the collision (approximately an hour and twenty minutes). Shouldn’t this information been available to Lake Champlain via the 21st century successor to NTDS?

    • CHENG1087

      Very good point. I’ve been retired for thirty years, so I’m dim on data exchange in a modern battle group. Did the CVN’s surface plot just watch this collision develop and not broadcast a warning? But the collision was happening at least five miles away. And the Korean fishing boat was well past CPA on the carrier. The “skunk” may already have been scrubbed by the carrier. On the bridge of the CG, it wasn’t a matter of exchanging NTDS information. From approximately 1040, an hour and eleven minutes before the collision, the Korean boat was VISIBLE to the CG OOD (visibility was three to nine miles.) Notice the “lockstep” maneuvering of the CG, approximately matching the CVN’s maneuvering. Did the OOD consider his assignment to be a point station, rather than a sector? The CG had plenty of sea room to roam. Looks to me like his head was “up and locked.” The solution was visual, not electronic.

  • seamarshal

    Time for the Coast Guard to take over the Navy!! There 50 year old ships fare much better than the Navy’s newer ships due to MUCH BETTER seamanship. Ever heard of the rules of the road. Yes, they apply over 3 miles from shore dumb dumb. There goes another captain, XO and ship’s Command chief. I agree, Richardson should go! All he does is order investigations.

  • johnbull

    Totally mystifying. Why can we not train our folks to see other vessels in broad daylight and then make course adjustments? I guess my big question is this: is this a problem unique to our ships forward deployed to Japan, or is it across the whole of the surface fleet? I’m not a veteran, just an interested observer from the outside and it’s fascinating reading these comments.

  • CHENG1087

    This report indicates that the CG had been “patrolling” the Sea of Japan during the previous 24 hours, and had been “routinely” operating in the vicinity of fishing vessels. I would love to review the CG’s Surface Contact logs for those previous 24 hours to see how well she handled those other fishing boats. CPAs? Did the CG have to maneuver? Did the OOD call the Captain? Things we will probably never know unless the full investigative report, and background documents are released.

  • CHENG1087

    I was a steam snipe, so I don’t understand the details of the CG’s GT propulsion plant, so please help me out here, all you LM-2500 pros: the CG had refueled less than 24 hours previous to the collision, so I’m guessing she was nearly topped off. The CG was the only true AAW asset in the 3-ship formation (the ROKN DDH was primarily an ASW asset, comparable in size and mission capability to an old USN OHP FFG). The CG was responsible, by herself, for the AAW protection of both the CVN and the DDH (and, of course, herself). This small, 3-ship force was “patrolling” generally to the east of the SN/NK DMZ, just a few weeks after being sent there due to heightened concerns over NK nuke-rattling. The CG “routinely” encountered fishing vessels, any one of which could have been North Korean and have posed a threat to the CVN.

    Therefore…….Why in God’s name would the ONLY real defensive asset of the force be stooging around with one shaft “in trail” (unlocked, but “freewheeling”) and the other driven by just one of her four engines? Trailing a shaft, with one (of four) engines operating is noted as a fuel economy measure. The CG was topped off, I thought. Did economy take precedence over tactical preparedness? The CG’s max speed of 18 knots made her slower than a merchant, and her “assymetrical” power arrangement most likely made her less maneuverable, too. She rang up 17 and 18 knots a couple times just prior to the collision, which means that single LM-2500 engine was at or near full power, right?

    Question for the LM-2500 pros: how long does it take to light off an idle engine, bring it on line, and get the “in trail” shaft up to speed?

    Did the CVN know that her only protector — the CG — was a virtual cripple? Is that why her CO was summoned to see the Admiral? I guess we’ll never know. Sad.

  • Kim Chul Soo

    Seamanship and Navigation? Sounds like a bunch of little school kids aboard or a regular goat roping.