Navy halts operations after collision
WASHINGTON The Navy’s top officer on Monday ordered a pause in operations for operations around the world in the wake of the second major collision in three months of one of its front-line combat ships.
Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said the pause was ordered to allow commanders to take immediate action to keep sailors and ships safe.
Richardson, who made the announcement in a video message, said the latest collision involving the USS John S. McCain had left him “devastated and heartbroken.”
The McCain had been heading to Singapore early Monday for a routine port visit after conducting a sensitive freedom-of-navigation operation last week by sailing near one of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea. The collision between the 505-foot destroyer and the 600-foot oil tanker Alnic MC ripped a gaping hole in the destroyer’s hull. Ten sailors remain missing, and five were injured in the latest of four major mishaps involving ships in the Navy’s 7th Fleet.
The Navy’s 7th Fleet said “significant damage” to the McCain’s hull resulted in the flooding of adjacent compartments including crew berths, machinery and communications rooms. A damage control response prevented flooding, it said.
On June 17, the USS Fitzgerald was badly damaged in a collision that killed seven sailors off the coast of Japan.
Richardson also ordered a Navy-wide review to get at the “root causes” of the problems.
Top priority missions, such as ballistic missile defense due to tensions with North Korea, will likely continue despite the pause, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the non-partisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Since 2000, the Navy’s fleet has shrunk but demand for ships at sea around the world has risen, Clark said.
“Each ship is working 20 percent more,” Clark said. further
The initial report on the Fitzgerald showed that sailors asleep in their berthing compartment below the water line had only minutes to escape. Water gushed through the 13by-17 foot gash, flooding the area with seawater that was neck high within two minutes. The ship’s list, and floating debris, hindered escape. The sailors who died were closest to the rupture in the hull.
The accidents involving the McCain and Fitzgerald took place in congested seas with lots of shipping traffic, Clark said. The shipping lanes are not well defined.
“It’s like the on-ramp to a freeway,” he said. “There’s lots of traffic coming from different directions.”