The Navy ordered a worldwide “operational pause” Monday as it conducts a comprehensive review of recent collisions involving destroyers based at Yokosuka, Japan.
The pause came after the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided Sunday with the Alnic MC, a 600-foot oil and chemical tanker.
Ten sailors from the McCain were reported missing and five suffered minor injuries following its crash. Four of the injured sailors were airlifted to a hospital in Singapore, while the fifth did not require further medical attention.
The 505-foot McCain sustained “significant damage” to its hull on the left rear side in the collision, which occurred about 2:24 p.m. San Diego time, east of the Straits of Malacca, as the destroyer was heading to a routine port visit in Singapore.
The crash “resulted in flooding to nearby compartments, including crew berthing, machinery and communications rooms,” the Navy said. “Damage control efforts by the crew halted further flooding.”
Even as the search-and-rescue efforts continued for the missing sailors Monday morning, Navy officials said the crash, the second in as many months in the Navy’s Pacific-based 7th Fleet, will lead to a broad investigation of Navy operations and an operational pause for “all fleets around the world.” A similar collision in June involving the USS Fitzgerald killed seven sailors, including two San Diego-area men.
“This trend demands more forceful action,” said Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, said in a video released by the Navy. “As such, I’ve directed an operational pause be taken in all of our fleets around the world. In addition to that operational pause, I’ve directed a comprehensive review to get at the contributing factors – – the root causes — of these incidents.”
The review will be conducted on “a very tight timeline” by a “broad and diverse” team of military and non-military authorities, Richardson said. It will be in addition to the in-depth investigations of each crash, including an investigation into the Fitzgerald collision that resulted in that ship’s top officers being relieved of their duties last week.
Navy officials with Commander, Naval Surface Force, Pacific Fleet in San Diego are focused on helping the USS John S. McCain and will await further direction on how to handle the operational pause, said Andrew DeGarmo, a media officer with SURFPAC.
The USS America, an amphibious assault ship based in San Diego, is now moored across the pier from the McCain at the Changi Naval Base in Singapore, where the damaged vessel docked after sailing to shore under its own power.
“While in Singapore, America will provide messing and berthing services to McCain crew members and support damage control efforts on board,” the Navy said. “America will also support ongoing searches for 10 missing sailors. Ship Repair Facility divers are on scene as well to assess the damage to the hull.”
According to the Navy, Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and Seahawk helicopters from the America were assisting with the search, along with ships from the Singapore Navy and Coast Guard. Malaysian Navy ships also rendered aid to the damaged U.S. warship.
City News Service contributed to this article.