Poorly Trained US Navy sailors have another accident

The USS Benfold sustained slight damage when a Japanese tug drifted into the guided-missile destroyer during a towing exercise off central Japan on Saturday, the U.S. Navy said.

“No one was injured on either vessel and Benfold sustained minimal damage, including scrapes on its side, pending a full damage assessment,” a statement from the U.S. 7th Fleet said.

“Benfold remains at sea under her own power. The Japanese commercial tug is being towed by another vessel to a port in Yokosuka. The incident will be investigated,” it said, referring to the fleet’s base in Kanagawa Prefecture.

The U.S. Navy announced a series of reforms this month aimed at restoring basic naval skills and alertness at sea after a review of deadly ship collisions in the Asia-Pacific region showed sailors were undertrained and overworked.

Seventeen U.S. sailors have been killed this year in two collisions with commercial vessels involving guided-missile destroyers: the USS Fitzgerald in June off Kanagawa Prefecture, and then the USS John S. McCain in August as it approached Singapore.

Navy study revealed poorly trained sailers

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.