Collisions of US destroyers, commercial vessels in Western Pacific were avoidable: Top navy officer

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The USS Navy guided-missile destroyer, USS John S. McCain, is seen after a collision, in Singapore waters on Aug 21, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS
Ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) walks to a closed briefing about recent Navy collisions at sea on Oct 31, 2017 in Washington, DC. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - Two collisions between US navy destroyers and commercial vessels in the Western Pacific earlier this year were "avoidable" and the result of a string of crew and basic navigational errors, the Navy's top officer said in a report to be made public on Wednesday (Nov 1).

Seven sailors were killed in June when the destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship near Japan. The collision in August of the USS John S. McCain - another destroyer, named after Senator McCain's father and grandfather - and an oil tanker while approaching Singapore left 10 sailors dead.

In the case of the USS Fitzgerald, the navy determined in its latest reports that the crew and leadership on board failed to plan for safety, to adhere to sound navigation practices, to carry out basic watch practices, to properly use available navigation tools, and to respond effectively in a crisis.

"Many of the decisions made that led to this incident were the result of poor judgement and decision-making of the commanding officer," the report concluded.

"That said, no single person bears full responsibility for this incident. The crew was unprepared for the situation in which they found themselves through a lack of preparation, ineffective command and control, and deficiencies in training and preparations for navigation."

In the case of the USS John S. McCain, the investigation concluded that the collision resulted from "a loss of situational awareness" while responding to mistakes in the operation of the ship's steering and propulsion system while in highly trafficked waters.

"The collisions were avoidable," Admiral John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said in a summary of the two reports, which were to be released by the Navy on Wednesday morning.

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