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Navy Chief Makes Rare Move After Another Collision

Orders pause in operations to assess what's going on
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2017 1:09 PM CDT
Navy Accident Occurred in Busy, Confusing Waters
Damage to the portside is visible as the destroyer USS John S. McCain steers toward Changi Naval Base in Singapore.   (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Fulton/US Navy photo via AP)

The search goes on for 10 missing US sailors after yet another accident involving a Navy ship. On Monday, Navy chief John Richardson took the rare step of ordering an "operational pause" in naval operations around the world so fleet commanders can assess what's going on, reports the Navy Times. Richardson, who pronounced himself "heartbroken" over the latest disaster, also ordered a broader investigation that goes beyond the details of the latest incidents and gets at the "root causes" of the problems. "This is the second collision in three months and is the last in a series of incidents in the Pacific theater," he said. "This trend demands more forceful action." Coverage:

  • The collision: The USS John S. McCain, a destroyer, collided with an oil tanker off the coast of Singapore as it prepared to enter a port there. The collision happened just before dawn in one of the world's most congested shipping lanes, reports the New York Times. Things can get confusing in a hurry, especially in the dark.
  • Protocol: There should have been plenty of crew members on deck looking for the lights of nearby ships, and, given the congestion, it wouldn't have been unusual for the ship's commander to be on the bridge, too. "Clearly at some point, the bridge team lost situational awareness," says Adm. William F. Moran, vice chief of naval operations, per the Washington Post.
  • Out of position? The accident happened on the eastern approach to the Strait of Singapore, and AFP quotes one naval expert from Jane's who says, based on early reports, that the naval ship may not have been in the proper position, a possible sign of crew fatigue. The strait is only 10 miles wide, not leaving much room for error. It's a "dynamic environment" requiring extra vigilance, says one marine insurance official.

  • Fourth this year: This is the fourth accident involving a US Navy ship in Asian waters this year, and CNN has details on all of them. The other big one, of course, was a June collision involving the USS Fitzgerald that left seven sailors dead. Prior to that, a South Korean fishing ship hit the USS Lake Champlain, and the US Antietam ran aground off Japan. A list at the New York Times goes back further.
  • Not that John McCain: The ship in the latest accident isn't named for Vietnam war hero Sen. John McCain. It's named for his father and grandfather, both of them naval commanders during World War II, and the Sacramento Bee provides details on their careers.
(Read more Navy stories.)

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