Containership collides with US warship off Japan

6/21/2017

Seven US naval personnel were killed and three were injured out of a crew of 300 after a Philippine-flagged containership collided with a US warship off the coast of Japan early on Saturday.

The 2008-built 2,858 teu ACX Crystal hit the USS Fitzgerald at around 0230 hrs, 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Honshu leading to substantial damage to the warship's forward starboard side above and below the water line, according to a US Navy statement.

A large puncture below the water line resulted in flooding to two berthing spaces, a machinery space and the radio room.

According to Lloyd's List Intelligence, the boxship is registered to Sinbanali Shipping, while Vesselsvalue.com showed the vessel to be chartered to NYK Line.

NYK said in a statement that it and the shipowner Dainichi-Invest Corporation were fully co-operating with the investigation being conducted by the Japan Coast Guard and that more information would be provided when known.

After receiving a call for assistance from the US naval forces, the Japanese Coast Guard dispatched two vessels to the scene, while the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force deployed three vessels, two helicopters and a search and rescue aircraft. Another US warship in the vicinity, USS Dewey, and a US navy aircraft had also assisted with operations.

Guided by tugs, USS Fitzgerald  returned to Yokosuka around 1815 hrs Saturday where divers inspected the damage, made repair plans and continued to search for missing crew onboard.

The three injured crew, including the warship's commanding officer, were evacuated by helicopter to US Naval Hospital Yokosuka.

Bodies of seven missing crew were found in the flooded compartments and subsequently moved to the naval hospital where their identities were confirmed.

US naval authorities set up an emergency family assistance centre to answer questions from crewmembers' families.

They have also initiated administrative and safety investigations into the matter while the US Coast Guard has been tasked to lead the marine casualty investigation.

Meanwhile, Japanese authorities announced that the ACX Crystal sustained slight damage to its left bow during the incident though there were no casualties among the 20 Filipino crew, including the ship's master, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The boxship was escorted back to Tokyo Bay where the crew were questioned by Japanese authorities.

"The embassy will continue to co-ordinate with authorities on the matter...and to extend the necessary assistance to the Filipino seamen," the DFA said, adding that their thoughts and prayers were with the families and colleagues of the affected US personnel.

Lloyd's List has reached out to NYK Line for further comment on the issue.