US Navy: Poor Seamanship Caused Deadly ACX Crystal-USS Fitzgerald Collision

Image Courtesy: US Navy/ MC1 Peter Burghart

The collision between the Philippine-flagged containership ACX Crystal, operated by Japan’s NYK Line, and the US Navy’s guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald was avoidable as both ships demonstrated poor seamanship, the navy said following a probe into the fatal incident from June 17.

“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 navy added.

In line with the investigation findings, the commanding officer of the missile destroyer Cmdr. Bryce Benson was relieved of duty “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to lead”. He had previously been temporarily relieved of his duties due to medical reasons from injuries sustained during the collision.

In addition, the warship’s executive officer, Cmdr. Sean Babbitt, and command master chief, Master Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin, have also been relieved of their duties as their “inadequate leadership…contributed to the lack of watch stander preparedness and readiness that was evident in the events leading up to the collision. ”  

The navy added that several junior officers were relieved of their duties as well due to poor seamanship and flawed teamwork as bridge and combat information center watch standers.

Additional administrative actions were taken against members of both watch teams.

The US Navy’s severely damaged guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald is to be moved back to the US for repairs, once the tender to hire a heavy-lift vessel which would transport the warship to a dockyard in the vicinity of either Pascagoula, Mississippi or Portland, Maine is awarded.

The damaged ship could start its voyage to the US in mid-September or early November.

In the collision with NYK Line-operated boxship some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, the destroyer suffered flooding and extensive damage, including a significant impact under its pilothouse on the starboard side and a large puncture below the ship’s waterline.

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