Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Wreck of the USS Fitzgerald but No Poem in the Wake

There's no good report to make on the collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a large cargo ship but Pink sent me the link as he's a concerned Navy man, an ex-submariner.  He did whatever he did well and those ships made it on back to port but he's restricted by the code of submariners from ever saying what he did.  Fair enough on taking pride in doing a good job and consequently on taking a reasonable disappointment from seeing a failure of this nature.

The merchant vessel was on autopilot and no-one was on the bridge which, apparently, is standard for such vessels but sounds extremely unusual to us.  The Fitzgerald was under manual control but there was no evidence of anyone on watch as appears must have been the case since the Captain was still in his stateroom and had no idea of an impending problem.

The officers from the Fitzgerald are screwed and their Navy careers are almost certainly totaled, definitely so for command.

The Fitzgerald after its collision with the container ship ACX Crystal off the coast of Yokosuka, Japan. 

Credit Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press

Steven M. Morawiec, of Sparta, Wis., who spent 22 years in the Navy and many times took charge of his ship at night as the officer of the deck, said the failure to summon the captain was incomprehensible.

“On my ship, if another ship was expected to get within 4,000 yards, you had to have the captain there beside you,” he said. “If you didn’t wake the captain when you were supposed to, you were toast.”

New York Times:  Maritime Mystery: Why a U.S. Destroyer Failed to Dodge a Cargo Ship

The bigger question is how it ever came to this situation and how prevalent that type of management may be within the modern Navy.  Speculation is pointless since there's no way the Rockhouse can know but the example is shocking since there wasn't a single point which failed regarding detection of the merchant vessel but rather multiple and that indicates a systemic problem.  Whether that's limited to the Fitzgerald or goes beyond is impossible to tell just now.

This is not a plea for we need more ships, more guns, more sailors, etc but it's a clear note those who are in-service now do not apparently appear to be distributed so well.  If the ship was undermanned then why did it put to sea in the first place.  There's something extremely unusual about the situation and it's not likely the full detail will emerge until an inevitable court martial.

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