USS McCain collision prompts investigation into all US fleet operations
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The San Diego-based warship USS America docked in Singapore Monday to provide aid to the crippled USS John S. McCain following its collision with a merchant ship in the South China Sea, a crash which prompted U.S. naval officials to order a worldwide "operational pause" for all fleets around the world as it conducts a comprehensive review of recent collisions involving Navy ships.
Ten sailors from the McCain were reported missing and five suffered minor injuries following its crash into the Alnic MC, a 600-foot oil and chemical tanker registered in Liberia. Four of the injured sailors were airlifted to a hospital in Singapore, while the fifth did not require further medical attention.
The 505-foot Japan-based McCain sustained "significant damage" to its hull on the left rear side in the collision, which occurred about 6:25 a.m. Monday morning Japan time, east of the Straits of Malacca, as the U.S. guided-missile destroyer was heading to a routine port visit in Singapore, according to the Navy.
The crash "resulted in flooding to nearby compartments, including crew berthing, machinery and communications rooms," the Navy said. "Damage control efforts by the crew halted further flooding."
Even as the search-and-rescue efforts continued for the missing sailors Monday morning, Navy officials said the crash, the second in as many months in the Navy’s Pacific-based 7th Fleet, will lead to a broad investigation of Navy operations and an operational pause for "all fleets around the world." A similar collision in June involving the USS Fitzgerald killed seven sailors, including two San Diego-area men.
"This trend demands more forceful action," Adm. John Richardson said in a video released by the Navy. "As such, I’ve directed an operational pause be taken in all of our fleets around the world. In addition to that operational pause, I’ve directed a comprehensive review to get at the contributing factors — the root causes — of these incidents."
The review will be conducted on "a very tight timeline" by a "broad and diverse" team of military and non-military authorities, Richardson said.
It will be in addition to the in-depth investigations of each crash, including an investigation into the Fitzgerald collision that resulted in that ship’s top officers being relieved of their duties last week.
Navy officials with Commander, Naval Surface Force, Pacific Fleet in San Diego are focused on helping the USS John S. McCain and will await further direction on how to handle the operational pause, said Andrew DeGarmo, a media officer with SURFPAC.
The America, the amphibious assault ship based in San Diego, is now moored across the pier from the McCain at the Changi Naval Base in Singapore, where the damaged vessel docked after sailing to shore under its own power.
"While in Singapore, America will provide messing and berthing services to McCain crew members and support damage control efforts on board," the Navy said. "America will also support ongoing searches for 10 missing sailors. Ship Repair Facility divers are on scene as well to assess the damage to the hull."
According to the Navy, Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and Seahawk helicopters from the USS America were assisting with the search, along with ships from the Singapore Navy and Coast Guard. Malaysian Navy ships also rendered aid to the damaged U.S. warship.
The McCain is a guided-missile destroyer named after the grandfather and father of U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona.
The USS America is the first of the America-class amphibious assault ships for the U.S. Navy. The America was delivered in spring 2014. Her mission is to act as the flagship of an expeditionary strike group or amphibious ready group, carrying part of a Marine expeditionary unit into battle and putting them ashore with helicopters and Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.