UPDATE: US Navy Destroyer Collides With Container Ship

USS Fitzgerald Damage
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald. damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel. is seen off Shimoda, Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo June 17, 2017. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

by Phil Stewart (Reuters) The U.S. Navy said in a statement the USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant vessel at about 2:30 a.m. local time (1730 GMT), some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, a rare incident on a busy waterway.

The Navy said one injured U.S. sailor would be evacuated by a Japanese coast guard helicopter.

“The USS Fitzgerald suffered damage on her starboard side above and below the waterline,” the Navy said in a statement.

It said the full extent of damage to the ship and injuries to its crew were still being determined. The Fitzgerald was operating under its own power, “although her propulsion is limited”.

A spokesman for the U.S. 7th Fleet said earlier that the ship was heading back to Yokosuka under its own power at 3 knots and would likely dock in a couple of hours.

ACX Crystal Damage
A Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, damaged by colliding with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, is seen off Izu Oshima island, Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo June 17, 2017. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

Situated at the approach to Tokyo bay, Yokosuka and the waters to its south are busy with commercial vessels sailing to and from Japan’s two biggest container ports in Tokyo and Yokohama.

The USS Dewey and two Navy tugboats were being dispatched to provide assistance, the Navy said.

Salvage - A Personal Odyssey
Related Book: Salvage – A Personal Odyssey by Ian Tew

Japan’s public broadcaster NHK showed aerial footage of the destroyer, which had a large dent in its right, or starboard, side. Images broadcast by NHK showed it had been struck next to its Aegis radar arrays behind its vertical launch tubes.

The images showed what appeared to be significant damage on the deck and to part of the radar. NHK also showed footage of the container vessel and said it was heading towards Tokyo under its own power.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported that neither ship was in danger of sinking but that there was information that some crew may have gone overboard. It did not provide a source. Reuters could not immediately verify that account.

The 7th fleet said the collision was with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal. At around 29,000 tons displacement it is about three times the size of the U.S. warship.

A spokesman for the Philippines coast guard said he had heard of the accident but had no details since it was not in Philippine waters.

Such incidents are rare.

In May, the U.S. Navy’s USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel but both ships were able to operate under their own power.

UPDATE – Navy Captain Injured

The U.S. Navy said the commander of a destroyer that collided with a Philippine merchant vessel early on Saturday morning was among two sailors medically evacuated.

A statement from the U.S. 7th Fleet said Cmdr. Bryce Benson, commander of the USS Fitzgerald, was in stable condition after being taken to a naval hospital in Yokosuka, Japan.

Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Bill Tarrant. Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington, Linda Sieg and Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo, Raju Gopalakrishnan in Manila, Chizu Nomiyama in New York; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by James Dalgleish and Bill Tarrant

© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Helicopter Footage Of Vessel Damage

AIS Track Of The Containership

The MarineTrafiic AIS track of the USS Fitzgerald has yet to emerge but we do know that some Navy captains turn off the AIS transmitter when underway. We do not know the status to the USS Fitzgerald’s AIS unit at the time of the collision but the following is the AIS track of the ACX Crystal.

The track shows that the containership was traveling on a course of 068 degrees and a speed of 18.5 knots prior to the collision. At 16:30 UTC the vessel alters course to starboard. We do not know if the course change was a result of the collision or an attempt to avoid it.

ACX Crystal AIS Track
AIS Track of the ACX Crystal during the time of collision with the USS Fitzgerald Image via MarineTraffic.com.

Official US Navy Incident Statement

The following is the official US Navy post incident statement:

PHILIPPINE SEA (NNS) — USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) was involved in a collision with a merchant vessel at approximately 2:30 a.m. local time, June 17, while operating about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.

As of this time, there have been two patients requiring medical evacuation. One was Cmdr. Bryce Benson, Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, who was transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka and is reportedly in stable condition. A second MEDEVAC is in progress. Other injured are being assessed. There are seven Sailors unaccounted for; the ship and the Japanese Coast Guard continues to search for them.

Although Fitzgerald is under her own power, USS Dewey (DDG 105) got underway this morning as well as several U.S. Navy aircraft, and will join Japanese Coast Guard and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopters, ships and aircraft to render whatever assistance may be required.

“U.S. and Japanese support from the Navy, Maritime Self Defense Force and Coast Guard are in the area to ensure that the Sailors on USS Fitzgerald have the resources they need to stabilize their ship. As more information is learned, we will be sure to share to it with the Fitzgerald families and when appropriate the public. Thank you for your well wishes and messages of
concern. All of our thoughts and prayers are with the Fitzgerald crew and their families,” said Adm. John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations.

“Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the Sailors,” said Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. “We thank our Japanese partners for their assistance.”

USS Fitzgerald Captain – Official Bio

The following is the official US Navy Bio of Commander Bryce Benson, Captain of the USS Fitzgerald.

Commander Bryce Benson
USS Fitzgerald Commander Bryce Benson, USN. Official US Navy Photo

A native of Green Bay, Wisconsin, CDR Bryce Benson graduated from Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1999 and earned his commission through the Naval ROTC program.

CDR Benson’s initial sea tours were on the pre-commissioned ship USS WINSTON S. CHURCHILL (DDG 81) and USS KAUFFMAN (FFG 59) where he deployed to the 5th Fleet in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2006, he was assigned as the Weapons Officer on USS FORREST SHERMAN (DDG 98) and participated in the maiden deployment to the 6th Fleet Area of Operations. In 2007, CDR Benson screened for the early command program and subsequently served as the Executive Officer then as Commanding Officer of USS GUARDIAN (MCM 5), forward deployed from Sasebo Japan, 2008-2010.

Ashore, CDR Benson was selected for the Navy’s Washington D.C. Internship Program where he earned a Master’s degree in Organizational Management from The George Washington University and served internships on the Navy Staff, Joint Staff, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In 2010, CDR Benson was assigned to the Navy Personnel Command, Surface Warfare Distribution (PERS 41) as the Placement Coordinator for Amphibious and Mine Warfare Forces. In 2013, he reported to the U.S. Pacific Command where he served as the Executive Assistant to the Director for Operations (J3) and as an Integrated Air and Missile Defense Staff Officer (J36).

In November 2015, CDR Benson reported as the Executive Officer of USS FITZGERALD (DDG 62) forward deployed from Yokosuka, Japan as part of the Surface Navy’s Command Fleet Up program.