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21 August 2017

US Navy orders ‘operational pause’ after collision

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Media captionThe timing of this incident is awkward for the United States

The US Navy has ordered a worldwide “operational pause” of its fleet after a destroyer collided with a tanker near Singapore, leaving 10 sailors missing.

Five other sailors were injured in the crash involving the guided missile destroyer USS John S McCain.

The US Navy has ordered a wide investigation into its Pacific fleet following Monday morning’s incident.

It was the fourth crash involving a US Navy ship this year and the second in the past two months.

Navy Adm John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said in a statement: “This trend demands more forceful action.

“As such, I have directed an operational pause be taken in all of our fleets around the world.”

What do we know about the collision?

The USS John S McCain was sailing east of Singapore when the collision with the Liberian-flagged vessel occurred.

It was reported before dawn at 05:24 local time on Monday (21:24 GMT on Sunday) and took place east of the Strait of Singapore, as the American vessel went for a routine port stop in Singapore.

The destroyer sustained damage to her port side, which is the left-hand side of the vessel facing forward.

Image copyright
EPA

Image caption

Crew berthing, machinery and communications rooms were flooded, the Navy said

The tanker it collided with, Alnic MC, sustained damage to a tank near the front of the ship 7m (23ft) above the waterline, but none of its crew was injured and there were no oil spills.

At 182m (600ft), the tanker is slightly longer than the 154m-long US destroyer.

Where are the missing sailors?

US military helicopters as well as the Singaporean and Malaysian navies and coast guards are conducting search and rescue operations.

Image copyright
Reuters

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A Singapore Air Force helicopter transports wounded to hospital

Malaysian Navy chief Admiral Kamarulzaman said a message had been sent to fishing vessels along the Johor and Pahang coasts to keep a look out.

A Malaysian Navy spokesman later told a news conference: “The waves are between 0.5m and 1.5m, so the sea is quite rough and can be very challenging if you don’t have a life jacket.”

The US Navy said four of the injured sailors had non-life threatening injuries and were medically evacuated to a Singapore hospital. The fifth person did not require further medical attention.

The US Navy 7th Fleet later issued a statement saying the USS John S McCain had arrived at Singapore’s Changi naval base.

Image copyright
Malaysian Navy Chief

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A picture of the Alnic MC tweeted by Malaysia’s navy chief

The Alnic MC made its way to the Raffles Reserved Anchorage in Singapore.

One crew member of the oil tanker told Reuters over the phone that the vessel sustained some damage to a valve. The ship was carrying nearly 12,000 tonnes of oil from Taiwan to Singapore, the news agency reported.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said: “There is no report of oil pollution and traffic in the Singapore Strait is unaffected.”


US Navy losing its edge?

Jonathan Marcus, Defence Correspondent, BBC News

Two serious collisions with merchant vessels; some 17 crew members dead or missing; and two guided missile destroyers of the US Seventh Fleet out of action for months – good reason then for a thorough review.

But are these unconnected episodes or part of a broader systemic failure? This is what the new review will have to find out.

Analysts and former officers note the high tempo of operations. The US Navy – despite its size – is just not large enough, they say, to do everything that is asked of it. Training inevitably suffers.

And the dramatic growth in merchant shipping – the real measure of our globalised world – means the sea-lanes are now more crowded than ever.

For years the US Navy has had no obvious peer competitor. And some fear that it may be losing its edge.


What’s the response so far?

US Senator John McCain tweeted that he and his wife were praying for the sailors.

The vessel was named after his father and grandfather, both admirals in the Navy.

“I agree with Admiral Richardson that more forceful action is urgently needed to identify and correct the causes of the recent ship collisions,” he added.

US President Donald Trump has also put out a tweet about the accident.

What happened in the previous collisions?

This is the fourth time in a year that a US navy vessel has been involved in an accident.

Just two months ago, seven US sailors were killed when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship in Japanese waters near the port city of Yokosuka.

Those who died were found in flooded berths on board the ship after the collision caused a gash under the warship’s waterline.

The US Navy said last week that about a dozen sailors would be disciplined, and the commanding officer and other senior crew would be taken off the ship.

In May, a guided missile cruiser collided with a South Korean fishing vessel, while in August last year a submarine collided with an offshore support vessel.


USS John S McCain

  • Named after US senator John McCain’s father and grandfather, both of whom were admirals in the US Navy, it is also known by its nickname Big Bad John
  • Operating from the US naval base in Yokosuka in Japan, it is part of the US 7th Fleet patrolling the Pacific
  • Has a crew of more than 300 sailors and officers. and a full displacement of 9,000 tons
  • In May, it successfully passed a navy inspection for mission readiness at sea

Alnic MC

  • Oil and chemical transporting tanker
  • Built 2008, registered in Liberia
  • Owned by Greece based Stealth Maritime Corporation
  • Heading from Pyeongtaek, South Korea en route from Taiwan to Singapore

Sources: US Navy, MarineTraffic.com, AFP


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