As Investigators ID Big Problems, U.S. Navy Blames “Fat Leonard” (excerpt)
(Source: Forbes; issued Sept. 4, 2020)
By Craig Hooper
The reconstructed paths of the US Navy destroyer Fitzgerald, the container ship ACX Crystal, the Maersk Evora and the Wan Hai 266 in the bay of Sagami Nada the evening of June 17, 2017. (NTSB graphic)
The National Transportation Safety Board (NSTB), charged with investigating major U.S. transportation accidents, just released their findings on a fatal 2017 collision between the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and a cargo ship.

As expected, the findings are not kind to the Navy. The NTSB assigns probable cause to the USS Fitzgerald’s crew and commander, citing poor Navy oversight of operations scheduling, crew training, and fatigue mitigation. In the report, the NTSB recommended the U.S. Navy review and revise a host of fleet-wide training requirements and change automatic identification system protocols.

The NTSB report joins several other mishap investigations in offering the Navy a no-nonsense guide for the future, but rather than take the NTSB findings to heart, the Navy, while it is moving smartly to fix things, is also starting to look for a convenient non-Navy scapegoat.

In recent statements, Navy leaders are gradually adopting a stab-in-the-back mythos, tracing blame for ship handling mishaps and a host of other systemic naval problems to a massive seven-year old contracting scandal known as the “Fat Leonard” affair.

This is unfortunate. (end of excerpt)


Click here for the full story, on the Forbes website.

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4 Safety Recommendations Issued Based on Investigation of USS Fitzgerald Collision
(Source: National Transportation Safety Board; issued Sept. 3, 2020)
WASHINGTON --- The National Transportation Safety Board issued Thursday four safety recommendations in its final report on the agency’s investigation of the fatal, June 17, 2017, collision between the USS Fitzgerald and the container ship ACX Crystal.

The collision happened shortly after the 504.5 foot-long, US Navy destroyer Fitzgerald, with 315 people on board, departed its homeport of Yokosuka, Japan, bound for the Philippines. The Fitzgerald was traveling southbound at about 22 knots in the bay of Sagami Nada off Japan’s Honshu Island, while the 730 foot-long, Philippine-flag, container ship ACX Crystal with 21 people on board was traveling east-northeast at about 18.5 knots in the bay, headed to Tokyo, from Nagoya, Japan.

Neither vessel radioed the other as the distance between the ships continuously decreased. Actions taken by watch officers to avoid impact seconds before the collision were too late and the ships collided. Seven Fitzgerald crewmembers died in the accident, and three others suffered serious injuries. No injuries were reported aboard the ACX Crystal. The destroyer sustained extensive damage to its forward starboard side and the ACX Crystal sustained damage to its bow.

The NTSB was the lead federal agency for the investigation and delegated its authority to the U.S. Coast Guard to gather documents and perform interviews on behalf of the NTSB. The NTSB developed the analysis and probable cause based on evidence gathered by the Coast Guard and additional documentation provided by the Navy.

Marine Accident Report 20/02 contains 11 findings, seven identified safety issues, four safety recommendations and the probable cause of the accident.

Identified safety issues include:
-- the insufficient training of the Fitzgerald’s crew;
-- Fitzgerald crew fatigue;
-- the practice of US Navy vessels to not broadcast automatic identification system signals;
-- failure of both ships’ crews to take actions in accordance with the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea;
-- insufficient oversight and directive by the U.S. Navy;
-- the commanding officer’s inadequate assessment of the transit route’s hazards; and
-- the commanding officer’s decision to not augment bridge watch-standing personnel with a more experienced officer.

In the report the NTSB says the Fitzgerald’s bridge team’s failure to take early and substantial action to avoid collision, as the give-way vessel in a crossing situation, is the probable cause for the collision. The NTSB also says ineffective communication and cooperation among the crew on the Fitzgerald’s bridge and combat information center, coupled with the commanding officer’s insufficient planning for the hazards of the destroyer’s intended transit, contributed to the collision. The ACX Crystal’s watch officer’s lack of early detection of the Fitzgerald and insufficient actions to avoid collision, once in doubt of the destroyer’s intentions, also contributed to the collision.

“This tragedy highlights the importance of keeping a vigilant watch, determining the risk of collision, and the role of the Automatic Identification System,” said Morgan Turrell, Acting Director of the NTSB’s Office of Marine Safety. “If you are in doubt of another vessel’s intentions, you need to use proper sound and visual signals, and then take early and effective action to avoid a collision.”

As a result of its investigation the NTSB issued three safety recommendations to the Navy and one to Sea Quest Management Inc., the operator of the ACX Crystal.

Two safety recommendations issued to the Navy call for review and revision of fleetwide training and qualification requirements for officers of the deck related to the collision regulations, as well as review and revision of bridge resource management training.

The third recommendation to the Navy seeks the broadcast of automatic identification system information when in the vicinity of commercial vessel traffic, at all times, unless such broadcast could compromise tactical operations.

The safety recommendation issued to Sea Quest Management Inc., seeks additional training for navigation officers on collision avoidance regulations, radar and automatic radar plotting aids.


Marine Accident Report 20/02 is available online at https://go.usa.gov/xGTzX and the public docket for the investigation is available.

Portions of Marine Accident Report 20/02 were designated as Controlled Unclassified Information by the US Navy and those portions were edited to comply with information security standards.


Click here for the full report (50 PDF pages), on the NTSB website.

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