Navy wide incompetence and not hacking caused the recent US Navy collisions

A 72 page unclassified report has been issued by the US Navy on the collisions involving the destroyers USS Fitzgerald and the USS McCain. It was not hacking but incompetence and inability to perform basic navigation and this problem was not just those two ships and not just the seventh fleet but is an endemic problem throughout the US Navy.

* Lookouts were looking in the wrong direction on the USS Fitzgerald.

FITZGERALD officers possessed an unsatisfactory level of knowledge of the International Rules of the Nautical Road. Watch team members were not familiar with basic radar fundamentals, impeding effective use.

The Officer of the Deck and bridge team failed to comply with the International Rules of the Nautical Road. Specifically:
FITZGERALD was not operated at a safe speed appropriate to the number of other ships in the immediate vicinity.
FITZGERALD failed to maneuver early as required with risk of collision present.

FITZGERALD failed to notify other ships of danger and to take proper action in extremis.

Watch team members responsible for radar operations failed to properly tune and adjust radars to maintain an accurate picture of other ships in the area.

Watchstanders performing physical look out duties did so only on FITZGERALD’s left (port) side, not on the right (starboard) side where the three ships were present with risk of collision.

Key supervisors responsible for maintaining the navigation track and position of other ships:
Were unaware of existing traffic separation schemes and the expected flow of traffic. Did not utilize the Automated Identification System. This system provides real time updates of commercial ship positions through use of the Global Positioning System.

* The bridge crew – including the commander – didn’t know how the helm worked on the USS McCain.

Much of the track leading up to the Singapore Traffic Separation Scheme was significantly congested and dictated a higher state of readiness. Had this occurred, maximum plant reliability could have been set with a Master Helmsman and a qualified Engineering Lee
Helm on watch.

If the CO had set Sea and Anchor Detail adequately in advance of entering the Singapore Strait Traffic Separation Scheme, then it is unlikely that a collision would have occurred. The plan for setting the Sea and Anchor Detail was a failure in risk management, as it required watch turnover of all key watch stations within a significantly congested TSS and only 30 minutes prior to the Pilot pickup.

If JOHN S MCCAIN had sounded at five short blasts or made Bridge-to-Bridge VHF hails or notifications in a timely manner, then it is possible that a collision might not have occurred.

If ALNIC had sounded at least five short blasts or made Bridge-to-Bridge VHF hails or notifications, then it is possible that a collision might not have occurred.

The Commanding Officer decided not to station the Sea and Anchor detail when appropriate, despite recommendations from the Navigator, Operations Officer and Executive Officer.

Senior officers and bridge watchstanders did not question the Helm’s report of a loss of steering nor pursue the issue for resolution.

The collisions that killed 17 sailors this summer were “preventable” lapses in basic seamanship, the Chief of Naval Operations admitted today.

Above- The USS McCain heads for Shanghai after a collision that killed 10 sailor

After USS Antietam ran aground in January, some crewmembers still needed to get time at-sea for their training and certifications, so they were transferred to the McCain. “This is not unusual,” said Richardson, but in this case, no one made sure the crewmembers from Antietam, a cruiser, were properly trained to operate the somewhat different equipment on the McCain, a destroyer. “A couple” of those ex-Antietam sailors were on the McCain‘s bridge at the time of the collision.

No one else on the McCain’s bridge seemed to know what they were doing, either, including the ship’s commander. When they belatedly realized a current was pushing them onto a collision course with oncoming ship traffic, they tried to adjust the steering system – reconfiguring it five times in the three minutes before impact. Instead of correcting course, they lost control of the ship.

One mistake on the Fitzgerald was even more basic. The ship had posted look-outs as it went through busy sea lanes, but they were only looking left (port). No one was watching the ship’s right (starboard) side – which of course is where it was hit.

Interestingly one of the main recommended Navy solution was to have more ships.

It is interesting that no matter what the problem one of main solutions is more ships.

With budget restrictions -instead of cutting back on procurement, the Navy cutback on maintenance and training.

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