Navy report: Deadly ship collisions preventable, stemmed from 'multiple failures'

Navy report: Deadly ship collisions preventable, stemmed from 'multiple failures'
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Two ship collisions that killed 17 sailors were avoidable and caused by “multiple failures” on the part of officers and sailors onboard, according to a U.S. Navy report released Wednesday.

The 71-page report — which dissects the separate accidents involving the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain earlier this year in the Pacific  — found that performance and training mistakes led to the collisions between the guided-missile destroyers and commercial ships.

In the case of the June 17 collision between the Fitzgerald and the ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan, “an accumulation of smaller errors over time” ultimately resulted in a lack of adherence to sound navigational practices, according to a Navy explanation accompanying the report.

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“Specifically, Fitzgerald's watch teams disregarded established norms of basic contact management and, more importantly, leadership failed to adhere to well-established protocols put in place to prevent collisions."

Those mistakes resulted in the death of seven sailors from the Fitzgerald.

The John S. McCain’s Aug. 21 accident with the Liberian oil tanker Alnic MC, meanwhile, “resulted primarily from complacency, over-confidence and lack of procedural compliance.”

The biggest contributing factor was a “sub-standard level of knowledge” on the operation of the ship’s control console, the Navy found.

“In particular, McCain's commanding officer disregarded recommendations from his executive officer, navigator and senior watch officer to set sea and anchor watch teams in a timely fashion to ensure the safe and effective operation of the ship.”

In addition, no one on the bridge watch team, including the commanding officer and executive officer, were properly trained on how to correctly operate the ship control console during a loss of steering control.

That collision near the Strait of Malacca claimed the lives of 10 sailors.

In both accidents, sailors on the bridge didn’t follow standard Navy procedures and sound a ship-wide alarm notifying the crew of danger, nor did they try to communicate with the approaching commercial ships.

As a result, crews onboard the Navy and commercial ships had no warning of the collision.

The investigation also found that the accidents were not the fault of any single person.

"The crew was unprepared for the situation in which they found themselves through a lack of preparation, ineffective command and control, and deficiencies in training and preparations for navigation," according to the report.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in a statement accompanying the report that the collisions indicate "a need for the Navy to undertake a review of wider scope to better determine systemic causes.”

Richardson met with the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday in a closed briefing to provided information on the investigation and list planned corrective actions ahead of the report’s release.

Following the briefing, seapower subcommittee Chairman Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerSenator predicts Congress will wrap up tax work in two weeks The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill US warship collides with Japanese tug boat MORE (R-Miss.) said on the Senate floor that the size of the fleet contributed to accidents.

“Simply put, we need to acknowledge that the Navy has a supply-and-demand problem. We are asking too few ships to do too many things for American security, and that needs to be rectified,” he said.

“As the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions have demonstrated, the short-term costs of ‘doing more with less’ are unacceptable.”

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE (R-Ariz.), the committee's chairman, meanwhile, said in a statement after the meeting that the failure to properly fund, train and equip the U.S. military directly contributed to these collisions and lawmakers “must provide the necessary resources in a timely and predictable manner.”