The US Navy 7th Fleet formally relieved the commanding and executive officers of US destroyer USS John S McCain of duty on Wednesday (11 October) in the wake of a ‘preventable’ collision with a tanker in August.
The warship collided with the Alnic MC tanker near Singapore, killing 10 US sailors and injuring five others. No one on board the tanker vessel was hurt, and the cause of the 21 August collision is still under investigation, according to the Navy’s statement.
Pacific Fleet commander US Admiral Scott Swift also relieved three-star Admiral Joseph Aucoin, commander of the US Navy's 7th Fleet of duty shortly after the incident occurred.
Two crashes involving US warships in Asian waters took place in the span of a few weeks in July and August. The first – between USS Fitzgerald and container ship ACX Crystal – claimed the lives of seven US sailors and resulted in the firing of Fitzgerald’s commanding and executive officers. In January, the USS Antietam ran aground near the US’ Yokosuka naval base in Japan, and in May the USS Lake Champlain had a minor collision with a South Korean fishing boat east of the Korean peninsula.
Following the John S McCain incident, the chief of naval operations ordered a fleetwide review of the US fleet in the Pacific. In response to questions about the fleetwide review, Admiral Swift addressed speculation about whether technical failure, negligence or cyber attacks were to blame for the mounting number of ship collisions in the region.
Admiral Swift said the collisions involving US Navy ships cannot be viewed in isolation and that it was the organisation’s goal to find out whether there is a common cause underlying the uptick.
A US Navy statement said “While the investigation is ongoing, it is evident the collision was preventable, the commanding officer exercised poor judgement, and the executive officer exercised poor leadership of the ship’s training programme.”