Fatigue and insufficient safety training led to the fatal collision between a U.S. Navy destroyer and a Philippine container ship.
The June 17, 2017, collision between USS Fitzgerald and ACX Crystal was caused by fatigue and a lack of training among the Fitzgerald’s crew, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Seven Fitzgerald crew members died in the incident and three more were injured. The Crystal reported no injuries.
No communication between ships
The collision occurred just as the Fitzgerald was leaving its home port of Yokosuka, Japan, while the Crystal was en route to Tokyo from Nagoya, Japan.
Neither ship radioed the other as they approached, and actions taken by watch officers to avoid impact occurred too late, according to an NTSB news release.
Along with the deaths and injuries onboard the Fitzgerald, the destroyer sustained extensive damage to one side while the Crystal received damage to its bow.
Contributing factors leading to the collision include:
- the Fitzgerald’s bridge team’s failure to take early action to avoid collision as the “give-way vessel” in a crossing situation
- ineffective communication and cooperation among the crew on the Fitzgerald’s bridge along with insufficient planning for the hazards of the destroyer’s intended transit, and
- the Crystal’s watch officer’s lack of early detection of the destroyer and insufficient actions to avoid collision when realizing the Fitzgerald wasn’t going to give way.
Safety training issues
Safety issues that contributed to the incident identified in the NTSB report include:
- insufficient safety training of the Fitzgerald’s crew on collision regulations
- Fitzgerald crew fatigue caused by a “high workload” and “minimal time to rest”
- failure of both ships’ crews to take actions in accordance with the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea
- the commanding officer’s inadequate assessment of the transit route’s hazards, and
- the commanding officer’s decision to not augment bridge watch personnel with a more experienced officer.