US Navy cruiser skipper relieved of command following bunker spill in Virginia

The cruiser USS Philippine Sea (foreground) and the destroyer USS Bulkeley in 2008 (Photo: US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jonathan Pankau)

Captain Erica Hoffman, commanding officer of the US Navy guided missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea, was relieved of her posting by the commander of Carrier Strike Group Two on Monday, May 18, due to a “loss of confidence in her ability to command.”

The removal of Captain Hoffman as commanding officer of Philippine Sea comes after approximately 15,000 litres of diesel fuel had accidentally spilled from the cruiser while it was docked at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown in Virginia on May 7.

Around 90 per cent of the spilled bunker was successfully contained within hours through the combined efforts of Philippine Sea‘s crew, a navy oil recovery team stationed at Yorktown, and the US Coast Guard.

The navy is continuing to investigate the circumstances that led to the spill, which occurred while the cruiser was loading ammunition at the weapons station.

Captain Hoffmann had served as the commanding officer of Philippine Sea since April 2019. Captain Robert Thompson, assigned to Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic, will assume temporary duties as commanding officer until a permanent relief is identified.

Captain Hoffmann will be temporarily reassigned to the staff of Commander, US Fourth Fleet.

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