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Details Emerge About Navy's Planned Review of Ship Disasters

Tugboats from Singapore assist the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain as it steers towards Changi Naval Base, Republic of Singapore following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC on Aug. 21, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo/Joshua Fulton)
Tugboats from Singapore assist the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain as it steers towards Changi Naval Base, Republic of Singapore following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC on Aug. 21, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo/Joshua Fulton)

The Navy's head of U.S. Fleet Forces Command has 60 days to deliver the results of a "comprehensive review" of four ship mishaps in the Pacific this year that caused millions in damage and resulted in the deaths of 17 deployed sailors.

In a memo made public late Thursday, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran lays out the details of the review, to be overseen and presented by Adm. Phil Davidson.

The review was first announced Monday by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, just hours after a Liberian-flagged tanker collided with the destroyer John S. McCain near the Straits of Malacca, a disaster that would result in the loss of 10 sailors.

Moran's two-page memo lays out in detail every aspect of Navy operations and training the review will encompass, a daunting list given the two-month timeframe.

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"As part of this review, request you made detailed recommendations with respect to corrective actions necessary to ensure the safety of our people, safe operations at sea, and the readiness of our forces," Moran wrote.

"In the conduct of the review, you will seek input and insights from other services, industry, and highly qualified experts outside the services to ensure the widest possible perspective as we drive to the heart of the underlying issues and attack the root causes for these mishaps," he added.

According to the memo, the review will encompass individual sailor training and professional development, including seamanship, navigation, voyage planning, and tactical skills; and unit-level training and performance standards, including bridge manning and resource management and "contact avoidance" at sea.

Beyond the skill sets directly related to two recent collisions and other at-sea mishaps, the review will probe the process of developing operational and mission standards for deployed naval forces, exploring gaps between standards and what the job actually requires and taking a hard look at the effectiveness of leadership and oversight, including standards enforcement.

The review will also assess the Navy's risk management procedures and competing priorities with how they relate to operational tempo, addressing the question of whether the Navy is attempting to do too much with too few resources.

The readiness and availability of crucial equipment including ship navigation systems, propulsion and machinery will also receive scrutiny to ensure that critical failures are not contributing to mishaps.

Some early reports indicated that a loss of steering may have contributed to the McCain collision, but those reports have not been confirmed.

Finally, according to the memo, the review will review the currency and practical utility of the navigation equipment and combat systems that Navy ships use, to make sure they are providing sufficient data and situational awareness to avoid major mishaps.

As the review is launched, Navy fleets around the world are in the process of observing one-to-two-day "operational pauses" to do an immediate assessment of safety and procedures.

In remarks to reporters at the Pentagon Monday, Richardson said he was "devastated" to learn of the McCain collision, the second deadly collision involving a Navy destroyer within a span of three months.

"This trend demands more forceful action," he said.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

Related Video:

The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) arrives pier side at Changi Naval Base, Republic of Singapore following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.

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Navy Ships Accidents