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Officials: Container ship that hit the USS Fitzgerald was on autopilot when the deadly collision took place

June 23, 2017
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The freighter that hit a U.S. Navy destroyer last week was on autopilot at the time of the collision, according to officials who are familiar with the result of a preliminary investigation into the incident, according to a report.

The ACX Crystal, a large Philippine-flagged merchant ship, ran into the USS Fitzgerald off the coast of Japan last week, and seven sailors died.

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The officials said the ACX Crystal was “under control of a computerized navigation system that was steering and guiding the container vessel,” according to the report. So far, there is no evidence to support that the collision was intentional.

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There are two possible scenarios for what happened: the container ship’s navigation system could potentially have been hacked, and the ship purposely steered into the destroyer; or, that this was an autopilot malfunction, and one of the warning signals to notify the ship’s operators was missed, the report explained.

The Crystal is a mid-size ship container, coming in at 730 feet long with the ability to carry up to 2,858 shipping containers.

The USS Fitzgerald is 505-foot-long Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer and has 300 crew members.

After the collision last week, the heavily-damaged Fitzgerald went back to Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan.

The Navy and Coast Guard are investigating the incident.

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