5 Takeaways from report on Navy collisions near Japan, Singapore

The report states that the accident of the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain occurred due to poor decision-making capability of the staff.

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen after a collision, in Singapore waters August 21, 2017
The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen after a collision, in Singapore waters August 21, 2017 Reuters

Two major naval collisions, near the coast of Japan and port of Singapore, opened up an investigation into the cause of the mishaps. The investigation report states that the collisions took place due to the failures of the watchstanders and were 'avoidable'.

The accidents of the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain occurred due to the poor decision-making capability of the staff, says the report.

"Both of these accidents were preventable and the respective investigations found multiple failures by watchstanders that contributed to the incidents. We must do better," said Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, in a statement accompanying the release of the report.

Here are five takeaways from the scathing report that details the crew failures leading to the fatal incidents.

The collisions

Guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a cargo ship on June 17, off the east coast of Japan, leading to the death of seven sailors. The commanding officer of the vessel was trapped in his cabin, hanging from the ship's side, which had been crushed during the collision.

The USS John S McCain collided with a merchant vessel near the port of Singapore, on August 21. The collision tore a hole in the ship, with a diameter of 28 feet, and killed 10 sailors, all of whom were in the same berthing compartment and probably still in bed. The report stated that the size of the hole indicates that the space was "likely fully flooded in less than a minute after the collision."

The incompetence of crew members

The investigation report states that the crew of the USS Fitzgerald was incompetent to deal with such a situation. The mistakes occurred in navigation, watch-standing practices, using navigational tools and responding effectively in an emergency.

"The officer of the deck, the person responsible for safe navigation of the ship, exhibited poor seamanship by failing to maneuver as required, failing to sound the danger signal and failing to attempt to contact Crystal on bridge-to-bridge radio. In addition, the officer of the deck did not call the commanding officer as appropriate and prescribed by Navy procedures to allow him to exercise more senior oversight and judgment of the situation."

The USS John S McCain collision also took place due to lack of situational awareness of the crew members. International maritime rules were not followed and some of the sailors were not even familiar with the ship's control system.

Rescue efforts

Several deeds of bravery emerged during this accident as crew members risked their lives to save their companions. The rescue operation, carried out for the commanding officer of USS Fitzgerald, displayed great courage and presence of mind on the part of the crew members.

In the second collision outside Singapore, the communication systems were interrupted. Tugboats and pilots were requested from Singapore Harbour via handheld radios and phones. The ship was taken to Changi Naval Base.

Subsequent action

Eight senior Navy officers were suspended, including the commanding officer of the USS John S McCain and the executive officer of the USS Fitzgerald. Members of the ships' Bridge and Combat Information Center faced administrative actions. The Navy has also stated that additional disciplinary actions may be meted out, depending on the result of the investigation.

Lesson to learn

The two incidents led to the loss of bright Navy men who are indispensible for their country. In his statement, Richardson stated that the Navy can "learn from mistakes" and is "firmly committed to doing everything possible to prevent an accident like this from happening again." He added that every effort will be made to correct the mistakes that led to this tragedy, so that the Navy can emerge stronger than before.