7th Fleet US warship collides with merchant vessel for second time in 2017

UPDATE 2 — 8/23, 9:19 a.m. EDT: In a statement released Wednesday in Japan, U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Scott Swift announced Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin has been fired following the latest incident involving a 7th Fleet ship in his command.

According to the Navy, Aucoin suffered a “loss of confidence in his ability to command,” after the 7th Fleet’s fourth accident of 2017.  Rear Admiral Phillip Sawyer will take over for Aucoin effective immediately.

“The new 7th Fleet Commander must help move his team forward, focusing efforts on safe and effective operations,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson.


UPDATE — 8/22, 8:21 a.m. EDT: Speaking to reporters Tuesday in Singapore, U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, Adm. Scott Swift, said bodies of sailors aboard the USS John S. McCain have been found in flooded compartments of the ship by rescue Navy divers.

Swift also said Malasysian rescuers have also found human remains in waters surrounding the site of the crash, but were unable to identify them as members of the 7th Fleet.

“We are always hopeful that there are survivors. Until we have exhausted any potential of recovering survivors or bodies, the search will continue,” he said.


Two months following a U.S. warship colliding with a merchant ship off the coast of Japan, a second U.S. vessel, the USS John S. McCain, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer attached to the U.S. 7th Fleet, suffered severe damage after smashing into a 600-foot tanker off the coast of Malaysia.

Cruising east of the Strait of Malacca, the McCain collided with a Liberian-flagged ship, the Alnic MC early Monday morning. Alnic MC is an oil and chemical transport tanker.

Ten crew are missing and another five were injured.  Four of the injured were airlifted to a hospital in Singapore; the fifth did not require further medical attention.

According to U.S. Navy officials, “significant damage” occurred on the ship’s port side, as the McCain‘s hull was breached below the waterline causing several compartments to become flooded.

In June, the USS Fitzgerald, also guided by the Navy’s 7th Fleet, collided with a Filipino cargo ship, claiming the lives of seven seamen.

With rescue efforts underway, Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, released a video statement, saying:

“This is the second collision in three months and is the last in a series of incidents in the Pacific theater. This trend demands more forceful action. I directed an operational pause be taken in all of our fleets around the world.  I want our fleet commanders to get together with their leaders and their commands to ensure that we are taking all appropriate immediate actions to ensure safe and effective operations around the world.”

Following the collision, the Navy ordered a temporary halt to all naval operations in the Pacific while a full review was conducted to assess the 7th Fleet’s overall performance.

Intending to make port in Singapore, the ship reportedly hit the Alnic MC; however, the vessel remained seaworthy and was able to reach Changi Naval Base.

Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore are assisting rescue operations in the area which is designated as a sea lane into the well-traveled Singapore Strait.


[BBC News] [Military.com] [AP] [NPR] [ABC News] [Photo courtesy AP via Daily Mail]