US Destroyer Ignored Warnings Ahead Of Deadly Collision

Tyler Durden's picture

The latest update on the mysterious circumstances surrounding a collision between a Philippines’ flagged container ship and a Navy destroyer that left seven sailors dead has arrived, courtesy of Reuters.

The news agency is reporting exclusively that the USS Fitzgerald ignore the much-larger cargo ship’s repeated warnings to get out of its path of travel.

“In the first detailed account from one of those directly involved, the cargo ship's captain said the ACX Crystal had signaled with flashing lights after the Fitzgerald "suddenly" steamed on to a course to cross its path.


The container ship steered hard to starboard (right) to avoid the warship, but hit the Fitzgerald 10 minutes later at 1:30 a.m., according to a copy of Captain Ronald Advincula's report to Japanese ship owner Dainichi Investment Corporation that was seen by Reuters."

The incident has spurred no fewer than six investigations, including two internal hearings by the US Navy and a probe by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) on behalf of the National Transportation Safety Board. The Japan Transport Safety Board, the JCG and the Philippines government are also conducting separate investigations.

However, the details of what transpired during the June 17 collision remain sketchy because, as Reuters, noted, nobody is talking.

“The U.S. Navy declined to comment and Reuters was not able to independently verify the account.


A spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, the Fitzgerald's home port, said he was unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.


Spokesmen from the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), U.S. Coast Guard and ship owner, Dainichi Invest, also declined to comment.”

As Reuters reports, investigators will examine witness testimony and electronic data to determine how a naval destroyer fitted with sophisticated radar could be struck by a vessel more than three times its size. Another focus of the probes has been the length of time it took the ACX Crystal to report the collision. The JCG says it was first notified at 2:25 a.m., nearly an hour after the accident. In his report, the ACX Crystal's captain said there was "confusion" on his ship's bridge, and that it turned around and returned to the collision site after continuing for 6 nautical miles.

As we reported three days ago, data obtained from the ACX Crystal suggests the ship was on autopilot at the time of the collision, which has raised the specter that the incident was caused by sophisticated hackers.

And while investigators say they’ve found no evidence the collision was intentional, that the ship was relying on its computerized navigation system at the team of the collision means hackers could’ve infiltrated into the ship’s navigation system and steered it into the Navy ship – though the collision off the coast of Japan could’ve just as easily been caused by a malfunction, or human error if the system’s warning signals were ignored.

The incident left the highest rarity of such crashes has also raised questions about what caused the collision, and who might be at fault.

Collisions at sea involving Navy ships are extremely uncommon, occurring only once or twice a decade. Indeed, the incident amounted to the worst loss of life for the Navy since the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen’s Aden harbor, an incident that left 17 sailors dead.

US naval history includes a few notable accidents. In 2005, the USS San Francisco, a Los Angeles-class submarine, hit a seamount or underwater mountain, injuring dozens of crew. In 2001, the USS Greeneville, another Los Angeles-class sub, performed an emergency ballast blow for special visitors aboard the vessel, surfacing quickly and hitting a Japanese fishing ship on the surface near Hawaii, killing nine crew members of the Japanese vessel.

In one of the Navy’s worst incidents, the aircraft carrier Wasp in April 1952 collided with the destroyer Hobson in the North Atlantic, killing 176 men.

Mr. McGrath declined to speculate as to what occurred or who or what might be to blame in the Fitzgerald incident. The collision occurred in darkness in a high-traffic area of the Pacific, he said. The most concerning aspect of the collision, from the destroyer’s point of view, is the damage to the Fitzgerald’s starboard side below the waterline, resulting from the container ship’s construction and the way its bow hit, he said.

the Fitzgerald collided with the merchant vessel, which was more than three times its size, some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka early on Saturday. Three people were evacuated to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka after the collision, including the ship's commanding officer, Bryce Benson, who was reported to be in stable condition. According to Reuters, Benson took command of the Fitzgerald on May 13. He had previously commanded a minesweeper based in Sasebo in western Japan.

The Fitzgerald limped into port on Saturday evening, listing around 5 degrees, a U.S. Navy spokesman in Yokosuka said. The flooding was in two berthing compartments, the radio room and auxiliary machine room, he said. There were 285 crew onboard.

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BaBaBouy's picture

Must Be "Radicalized Navigator"...

robertsgt40's picture

Maybe it's time to bring back the crow's nest.

playit's picture

I'm making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do...

Dame Ednas Possum's picture

An opportune time to remind campers about the sinking of the USS Liberty. 

Time for closure on that one is long overdue...


The Alarmist's picture

Billion Dollar Boat designed to see things and respond appropriately to the threat, misses seeing a massive freighter and lets itself get hit by it. Any way you look at it, this is embarrasing for the USN. So of course it was human error, because our tech is flawless.

Dental Floss Tycoon's picture

"the incident was caused by sophisticated hackers."


I knew it! The Russians did it.

Dental Floss Tycoon's picture

"the incident was caused by sophisticated hackers."


I knew it! The Russians did it.

adanata's picture


Can't wait for autonomous cars... 

RAT005's picture

The container ship had right of way and tried to avoid the collision.  Sounds like some Navy guys don't know where their safe space is!

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

The good thing about this incident is we can now have faith in self driving cars.


insanelysane's picture

Thinking the Navy crew didn't know which way port was and turned the wrong way.

a Smudge by any other name's picture

Given the damage to both ships, this is the likely scenario. Destroyer crossed the Crystals bows from the port side...and lost.

Pure Evil's picture

Just you're normal average everyday excursion at a 4-way stop sign.

Failure to yield right of way.

Silver Swan's picture

And cue the Russian hacking allegations in 3, 2, 1....

StackShinyStuff's picture

Remember the Liberty.



natty light's picture

Did you see how that apartment building in England burned and then fell straight down?

Me neither.

popeye's picture

Its incredible - that hacking is even suggested in these articles. WTF?


Finding any excuse to avoid accountability - the New American way.


Can you morons in the media move on to the next meme please? I am sick to death of this hacking BS. Hell, even whistleblowers are "hackers" these days - how stupid is that? Its just bloody insulting.

Mr.BlingBling's picture

Thanks for saving me the time to type a similar comment. I can't believe that ZH is doubling down by reminding us of its absurd hacking theory--and using boldface type to do so, no less. (snort, snicker, guffaw)

booboo's picture

A short arm check should reveal some teeth marks due to the collision, follow the trail from there. I am not NTIS but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express this week.

Koba the Dread's picture

Thank you, Popeye! Neither this nor the previous article asked the question of why a USN destroyer's electronics and crew were all asleep at the wheel. Rather it drones on about hypothetical hacking of the container ship. Boring! And inane! And stupid! And ignorant of how the physical and contingent world works.

This is the Tylers in their new marketing strategy: Everybody loves a conspiracy. If we make a conspiracy out of anything and everything, we'll get more clicks and hits. The more clicks and hits we get, the more advertising revenue we'll get. Damn truth! Full money ahead!

WTFUD's picture

They wouldn't sink that low . . boom boom.

BurningFuld's picture

Since the damage is on the right side of the navy ship it was crossing the cargo ships path from left to right. The cargo ship turned to the right to miss the navy ship which was the wrong thing to do. Had it turned left or stayed straight it most likely would have missed it. The Navy ship may have calculated that it was not going to hit the cargo ship but did not expect the right turn from the cargo ship.

There is my speculation.

Lurk Skywatcher's picture

And maritime law says give way to starboard. The law of mass says big has right of way. In both cases, the Fitzgerald was in the wrong.

king leon's picture

It would have been easier if the US Navy ship wasn't where it was in the first place.

drgizmo's picture

it had to turn starbord ... the law 

Just Another Vietnam Vet's picture


Officer at the Conn or Officers on Deck in big trouble, IMHO. 

Radar, lookouts, high tech, etc.   Somone knew that ship was in the vicinity.

No doubt .... over confident or unwilling to alter couse.   

No doubt some poor enlisted guys will get some blame somehow. .

Looks like court martials pending. 

Brig time ?


Twee Surgeon's picture

Affirmative action Radar babe ! too the bridge immediately !

Tall Tom's picture




Let us say that you are in command at the helm of that Destroyer.


You are aware of a Cargo Ship that is 3 Nautical Miles away at Ten Minutes before the collision.


As you wrote you do have the Radar and you do have the ability to track the path and measure the other ship's speed.


Let's supoose that the paths of both vessels are orthogonal for this simple model and that your ship is traveling at 20 Knots.


You have tracked a path for that ship and expect that ship not to alter her path.


You'd be 3.33 Nautical Miles away from the point where that Cargo Ship crossed your path.


There'd be no reason to alter your path.


You are confident that the Cargo Ship is not going to alter her path as you'd believe that her crew were as competent as your own crew and...NOT ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL...PUN INTENDED...and would change her order to target your ship.


And that is what the Helm Officers of that Cargo Ship they PANICKED...they had not tracked you...and they did not know that had that they maintained their course and their speed that nothing would have they were incompetent. So they altered course ten minutes before the collision.


And a US Navy Board of Inquiry will clear the Bridge Crew and there will be no Court Martial as that would not be justifiable with the knowledge of the facts as currently presented.


And I have faith the the US Navy will come to the same conclusion as i have.


And I will pray that justice prevails.



Socratic Dog's picture


What velocity was the cargo ship traveling at, for your "simple model"?

And are you telling me that a military that claims it has the capacity to intercept ballistic missiles is not able to account for a change in direction of a lumbering cargo ship? A change that started happening 10 full minutes before the collision?

I think that "affirmative action radar girl", from the poster above, might just be the culprit here. Either that, or they were all drunk.

You know that the "hacker" narrative is going to be pointed at Putin. And I'll be totally unsurprised if the informed Mercan electorate swallows it whole. What a fucking world we have made for ourselves.

Tall Tom's picture



The speed of that Cargo Ship does not matter. It is irrelevant for this mind experiment.


We do know that it crossed the path of the US Navy Destroyer in Ten Minutes...AS THAT IS WHEN THE COLLISION HAPPENED.


The article stated that the Cargo Ship altered course to starborad ten minutes before the collision.


That is the most damning item of evidence.

any_mouse's picture

If ACX crew was the cause of the incident, the USN would not be in dark mode.

They are not talking because:
1) they haven't figured it out.
2) they know the cause, but not how or why or who.
3) they haven't come up with a plausible cover story.

The tracking radar has to have logs of data. The Fitzgerald has to have logs of its own movements. The ACX has to have data logs of the incident.

Those automated data logs are like dashcams in Russia.

Focusing on the "concerning damage" is stupid. Destroyers are not supposed to rammed by anything, unless it is in a suicide defense of the fleet.

Airbags in the berthing compartments?

Tall Tom's picture



The point that I am making is that if the Cargo Ship had not altered course then the collision would not have happened.


Let's use some common sense...When you are driving your car down the road at Speed Limit...Let's say 60 kph, and a automobile crosses your path some oh...a half kilometer away...and he is doing about 40 kph...are you going to alter your course or brake to avoid a collision?


You'd be absolutely nuts to do that and you'd be Ass Ended...or worse...if you did something so erratic.


But then, again, you do drive in Russia, right? :>)


(You know i have nothing against Russia...)

TommyD88's picture

1. speculation, The movement(s) of both ships is not known at this time. One or both ships can have responsibility in causes of the accident. It is unknown at this time if any action by the merchant was incorrect .  To the best of my knowledge there has been no release of information on the movement of the Navy ship leading up to and during the collision event.

Facts not speculation will be used to determine where the fault(s) lay.

2. The example you describe has absolutly nothing, zero , to do with operating ships at sea.


I have hundreds of hours of night time experience on the bridge of Navy ships .  not implying I know everything, but I have been there, done that.


drgizmo's picture

tom good defense... but as you may or may not know if the Cargo ship sensed it was going to be hit by USN ship it would be by law obligated to turn to Green as hard as possiable... to avoid a touch and too the Navy to do the same ...hard Green ... not red ...Green mens go ...No USN hit the cargo ship ..I call misconduct 

Just Another Vietnam Vet's picture

CIC combat information center would have been giving / monitoring position and passing it to the bridge. 

Signalmen should have seen the approach. 

Bridge watch should have noted the other ship.  

Civilian ship , big as it was, sounded alarms, and was on auto pilot. 

Go figure.

Officers  ???



TommyD88's picture

U.S. Navy no longer has Signalmen. QM's assumed those duties, though they had no knowledge of the rate..

TommyD88's picture

Seven fatalities.  The CO, XO, OOD & JOOD will never set foot onboard another Navy vessel.

HRClinton's picture

Don't worry, Self-voting ballot boxes are next.


Pure Evil's picture

If it results in you being elected in perpetuity, then Party On Garth!

Tall Tom's picture





Had the Cargo Ship did nothing, as there was a full ten minutes before the collision when the Cargo Ship's Helm had reacted...


...then that Destroyer would have cleared the path of the Cargo Ship with miles of Ocean in between the two ships to spare.


If the Destoyer was traveling at Twenty Knots then there'd have been 3 Nautical Miles separating the two ships in Ten Minutes. in a simple model of orthogonal paths....had the Cargo Ship not had altered course.


At times the best reaction is NO ACTION.


Fear of collision actually caused that collision.

JoeSoMD's picture

We used to negotiate these crossings... verify with the other mate on watch that we intended to hold our course and speed, and pass ahead or astern as appropriate.  If there was no AIS and we could not see the type of ship or hull color we would hail vessel on my starboard quarter at bearing xxx at y nm.  Pretty easy most times except when there was no mate on the other bridge!!!  However, this is a crowded waterway and the liklihood of the mate leaving the bridge is pretty low, even for third-world mariners.  If we could not make contact or were not comfortable that we were negotiating with the "right" vessel then we would slow waaay down.   Not worth the risk for the few barrels of fuel that it would take us to get back up to speed. 

JohninMK's picture

Just because the container ship had a 'computerised steering system' the writer jumped to the conclusion that it could be hacked in some way in real time as there was no way of knowing that these two ships would meet. As the ship was over 50 miles from the coast there was no way for an Internet connection via phone or wi-fi. That only leaves Inmarsat who's service is astonishingly expensive and likely to be only used by this kind of ship after, not before an emergency.

RAT005's picture

Agreed, from the gps based auto navigation experience I have, there is no hacking option for such a tight envelope of time and space.  I think it is as simple as some dimwit Navy guy thought he had military right of way and couldn't fix the problem when it was too late.

HowdyDoody's picture

UCX Crystal - 40,000 tons DWT

USS Fitzgerald - 9,000 tons + US military ego

The Crystal should clearly have given way (/sarc).

Ignatius's picture

Those fucking Russians again...

TommyD88's picture

As the Navy ship does not transmit identifying info there is no way at night the container ship,  , or anyone else for that matter, had any idea the other ship was U.S. Navy.. unless they established radio communications with each other.

It appears to me that many just "assume" the merchant ship  knew the other ship was Navy..  Not so .. Highly doubtful they knew that fact.

All the statements alluding to intentional ramming of the navy ship by the merchant are without merit.

Lumberjack's picture

Read this...

Twenty Tanker Tips


1. Big ships cannot stop on a dime. In fact, these ships may require as much as 5 miles to stop (with gears in full reverse). The solution is simple: stay out of their way.

2. Big ships will not stop. They may slow down to avoid traffic, however, keep in mind that a ship's steering control involves a direct relationship between the force of the propeller's wash against the rudder and their ability to maneuver. Thus, the slower they travel, the less maneuverable they become.

3. Big ships do not turn very well. For example, a 500 foot, 8000-ton ship needs over a third of a mile to turn around. Moreover, once such a ship commits to a turn, it will not waiver. Also, just as a following sea affects a pleasure boat's steering, the same holds true of the effect of a following sea on a big ship. Recall the rule regarding big ships in a narrow channel. The Santa Barbara Channel is a "narrow" channel especially when one considers that really big ships may need 5-10 miles to turn.


6. The Rules of the Road do not necessarily apply when these ships are in the area. The rule of BIG applies. Simply stated, because they are so much bigger than us, they will always win in the event of a collision. In fact, they may not even realize a collision has occurred. Therefore, stay well clear of big ships in the Channel and always yield the right-of-way, even if you think have it.


20. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER place your vessel within 1000 feet of a Navy warship. As a result of the events of 9-11, the Navy is authorized to use lethal force against any vessel coming within the prescribed safety zone without permission.

dr kill's picture

Settle down. no one gives a  shit/ damn, I'm glad to be 62 yo you 20 somehings can smdalmn. ahahahahah