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

June 23, 2017

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.


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.

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.