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US Navy destroyer ‘soft-grounded’ near Indonesia

The guided-missile destroyer USS Howard transits the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Shawn J. Stewart)
August 23, 2023

The USS Howard, a guided missile destroyer based in Japan, experienced a “soft grounding” incident earlier this month while pulling into Bali, Indonesia, for a port visit.

“On the morning of Aug. 10, USS Howard (DDG 83) experienced an apparent soft grounding shortly before arriving in Bali, Indonesia, for a scheduled port visit,” Lt. Luka Bakic, a spokesperson for U.S. 7th Fleet, told the Navy Times. “Upon indication of potential grounding, watch standers took immediate action to protect the crew and the ship.”

According to the Navy Times, “soft grounding” is the term often used to describe when a ship only sustains minor damage and is able to maneuver freely without assistance. On the other hand, “hard grounding” is the term used to describe when a ship sustains major damage and requires assistance to maneuver free.

“The ship was able to return to normal operations under its own power and propulsion,” Bakic added. “There were no injuries as a result of the mishap.”

Bakic told the Navy Times that the “soft grounding” incident is under investigation.

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The Navy also released a statement Sunday explaining that Cmdr. Kenji Igawa of the USS Howard was relieved of his command on Aug. 19 by U.S. 7th Fleet Vice Admiral Karl Thomas “due to loss of confidence in his ability to command.”

However, while the timing of Igawa being relieved from duty coincides closely with the timing of the recent incident with the USS Howard, the Navy did not elaborate on the reasoning behind the “loss of confidence” in Igawa.

“Navy commanding officers are held to high standards of personal and professional conduct,” the Navy said in its statement. “They are expected to uphold the highest standards of responsibility, reliability and leadership, and the Navy holds them accountable when they fall short of those standards.”

Former commanding officer of USS Robert Smalls, Capt. Edward Angelinas was announced as the temporary commanding officer of the USS Howard until a permanent replacement for Igawa could be found. The Navy announced that Igawa will be “administratively reassigned to the staff of Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet.”