The USS Fitzgerald, a guided missile destroyer of the 7th Fleet, misguided itself into the path of the Philippine-registered Japanese container ship, manned by Filipino seamen. Said mishap occurred at about 02:30 local time on 17 June 2017, due to “fogging” off the east coast of Japan.
The seven US navy sailors missing have been confirmed dead.
There was flooding in a portion of the Fitzgerald, officials said, as the ship was towed to the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka escorted by a Japanese coast guard ship.
The Fitzgerald, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, was commissioned in 1995 and was originally based in San Diego, California. It was deployed in a carrier strike group that assisted the war in Iraq in 2003.
The Fitzgerald changed its home port to Yokosuka in 2004 as part of a deployment “to counter ballistic missile threats worldwide”, according to the official history. In November 2011, the then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton met the Philippine foreign affairs secretary, Albert del Rosario, onboard the ship to sign the Manila declaration backing multilateral talks to resolve maritime disputes [read: UNCLOS provocation vs. China].
Rear-admiral Charles Williams, commander of the naval taskforce in the area, said:
“I want to highlight the extraordinary courage of the Fitzgerald sailors who contained the flooding, stabilised the ship, and sailed her back to Yokosuka despite the exceptionally trying circumstances.”
Most of the Fitzgerald crew were said to be deep asleep during the time of the accident.
Recently, the Fitzgerald had been active in Japanese waters to monitor the Korean peninsula following a series of ballistic missile launches by North Korea. It also took part in relief efforts after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
At about 29,000 tons displacement, the container ship is more than three times the size of the 8,315-ton Fitzgerald, and was carrying 1,080 containers from the central Japanese port of Nagoya to Tokyo.
For their own incompetence and lapses they are now exploring how they could put the blame on the lesser men.
Japan’s coastguard and the US navy plan to question crew members from the ACX Crystal, and could treat the collision as a possible case of endangerment of traffic caused by professional negligence, Kyodo news said.
The BBC has also highlighted the “unexplained U-turn” of the ACX Crystal, without ascertaining the actual location of the US destroyer as it is not publicly available, and whether the change was in the aftermath of the collision.
However, Filipino seamen are trained not to ignore any emergency situation — that might be the reason why they returned to the area where the collision happened, after they have assessed that it was safe to do so.
However, this is not the first time when a super advanced US destroyer failed to ascertain its own location on the planet.
In January 2013, the USS Guardian rammed into and got stranded in the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park after reportedly ignoring warnings from park rangers, causing damage to over 2,300 square miles of the park. The ship remained stuck in the reef for over two months, and had to be cut into pieces to be extricated.
Whatever the case may be, no naval ship could lay blame on any commercial vessel due to the former’s availability to go stealth from commercial radars.