Navy finds US destroyer collisions were avoidable

USS John McCain

The deadly collisions of USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan in June, and the August collision of USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) and merchant vessel Alnic MC were preventable, a US Navy report has found. A total of 17 US Navy sailors lost their lives in the collisions.

“Both of these accidents were preventable and the respective investigations found multiple failures by watch standers that contributed to the incidents,” said Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm John Richardson.

“We must do better. We are a navy that learns from mistakes and the navy is firmly committed to doing everything possible to prevent an accident like this from happening again.

“We must never allow an accident like this to take the lives of such magnificent young sailors and inflict such painful grief on their families and the nation.

“Our culture, from the most junior sailor to the most senior commander, must value achieving and maintaining high operational and warfighting standards of performance and these standards must be embedded in our equipment, individuals, teams and fleets.

“We will spend every effort needed to correct these problems and be stronger than before.”

The report said the June 17 collision between Fitzgerald and Crystal resulted from an accumulation of smaller errors over time, ultimately resulting in a lack of adherence to sound navigational practices.

Fitzgerald’s watch teams disregarded established norms of basic contact management and leadership failed to adhere to well-established protocols put in place to prevent collisions.

In addition, the ship’s triad was absent when their experience and guidance was most needed.

The August 21 collision between John S. McCain and Alnic MC resulted primarily from complacency, over-confidence and lack of procedural compliance, it found. A major contributing factor to the collision was sub-standard level of knowledge regarding the operation of the ship control console. McCain’s commanding officer disregarded recommendations from his executive officer, navigator and senior watch officer to set sea and anchor watch teams in a timely fashion to ensure the safe and effective operation of the ship.

In relation to procedures, no one on the bridge watch team, including the commanding officer and executive officer, were properly trained on how to correctly operate the ship control console during a steering casualty.

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