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.