US Navy Chief announces global operational pause following USS John S. McCain collision(Dept. of Defense photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro/Released)
In light of this week’s incident when the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker off the coast of Singapore, as well as the deadly June incident when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant ship and seven sailors died, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson has announced a fleet-wide operational pause of the U.S. Navy.
“This is the second collision in three months, and the last in a series of incidents in the Pacific Theater,” Richardson said in a video address on Monday. “This trend demands more forcible action. As such, I direct an operation pause in all of our fleets around the world.”
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“Fleet commanders will get together with leaders and commanders, and take appropriate and immediate actions to ensure safe operations around the world,” Richardson said.
And, “In addition to an operational pause, [there will be a] more comprehensive review to ensure we get the root causes of these incidents,” he added. “This is in addition to investigations that are looking into the details of the collisions.”
The U.S. Navy is still searching for 10 sailors after the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with Liberian merchant ship Alnic MC east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca on Sunday, local time. Five other sailors were injured.
There was significant damage to the hull of the USS John S. McCain, which resulted in flooding to nearby compartments, including crew berthing, machinery and communications rooms, 7th Fleet officials said, adding that damage control efforts by the crew stopped further flooding. The destroyer made its way back to Changi Naval Base in Singapore on its own power, despite a large hole in its port side.
Search and rescue efforts are underway in coordination with local authorities.
“I was devastated and heartbroken to hear about the collision of the USS John S. McCain in Singapore,” Richardson said. “All of our assistance is flowing to the ship and crew.”
This incident comes just days after the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet announced it was relieving top officers of the USS Fitzgerald following a June 17 deadly crash that killed seven sailors.
The commanding officer, executive officer and command master chief of the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald were relieved of their duties.
The ACX Crystal, a large Philippine-flagged merchant ship, ran into the USS Fitzgerald off the coast of Japan in June, and seven sailors died. It had been reported that the freighter was on autopilot at the time of the collision, but also that the freighter sent warning signals, and that the USS Fitzgerald might have failed to respond to communications.
“The collision was avoidable and both ships demonstrated poor seamanship. Within Fitzgerald, flawed watch stander teamwork and inadequate leadership contributed to the collision that claimed the lives of seven Fitzgerald Sailors, injured three more, and damaged both ships,” the Seventh Fleet said last week.