Destroyer Fitzgerald Towed to Transport for Stateside Repair

The damaged USS Fitzgerald is docked on June 18 at the U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka, southwest of Tokyo, after colliding with Philippine-flagged container ship ACX Crystal off Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
The damaged USS Fitzgerald is docked on June 18 at the U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka, southwest of Tokyo, after colliding with Philippine-flagged container ship ACX Crystal off Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald was towed from port in Japan Friday to a heavy-lift transport for stateside repairs, following its deadly collision with a cargo ship that killed seven sailors.

The U.S. Seventh Fleet said in a Tweet that the Fitzgerald would be floated aboard the transport Transshelf for the long trip to the Huntington Ingalls Industries repair yards in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The repairs were expected to cost more than $350 million.

The Fitzgerald was involved in a collision with the Philippine-flagged container ship ACX Crystal on June 17. Seven sailors were killed and the ship suffered damage on her starboard side above and below the waterline.

Preliminary repairs were performed at the Ship Repair Facility in Yokosuka, Japan, and the Fitzgerald was moved from dry dock to pierside in October, the Navy said in a statement.

Most of the Fitzgerald's crew of about 300 was asleep when the collision occurred about 65 miles southeast of the ship's homeport of Yokosuka.

The bulbous prow of the container ship penetrated the destroyer's hull below the waterline, flooding a machinery space, the radio room, and two crew berthing spaces.

Seven sailors were initially reported as missing but their bodies were found a day after the collision in flooded spaces.

The top three leaders of the Fitzgerald were relieved of duty in August, Adm. Bill Moran, the vice chief of naval operations, said at a Pentagon briefing.

The ship's commander, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, executive officer Cmdr. Sean Babbitt and Command Master Chief Brice Baldwin were removed for cause from their positions, although they were not on the bridge at the time of the collision.

The Seventh Fleet later said that several junior officers also "were relieved of their duties due to poor seamanship and flawed teamwork as bridge and combat information center watch standers. Additional administrative actions were taken against members of both watch teams."

The Seventh Fleet statement said "The collision was avoidable and both ships demonstrated poor seamanship. Within Fitzgerald, flawed watch stander teamwork and inadequate leadership contributed to the collision that claimed the lives of seven sailors, injured three more and damaged both ships."

On Aug. 21, the guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain collided with the Alnic MC tanker in the Straits of Malacca off Singapore, killing 10 sailors. In early November, the Navy issued a report stating that both collisions were avoidable.

The Fitzgerald collision "resulted from an accumulation of smaller errors over time, ultimately resulting in a lack of adherence to sound navigational practices," the preliminary report from Navy investigators said.

"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," the report said.

The collision of the McCain and the tanker "resulted primarily from complacency, overconfidence and lack of procedural compliance. A major contributing factor to the collision was sub-standard level of knowledge regarding the operation of the ship control console," the Navy report said.

Related Video:

USS Fitzgerald Enters Dry Dock

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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