USS Fitzgerald collides with ACX Crystal off coast of Japan


There is no stand on or give way vessel in an overtaking situation. Rule 13 . Any alteration of the bearing between the 2 vessels does not relieve the overtaking vessel of keeping clear. That is , the vessel being overtaken can change course or speed at any time, the overtaking vessel has to still keep clear. So it enforce sthe “keep out of the way”.


I think you are looking at the track AFTER the collision had occurred. It appears that the container vessel made an abrupt turn to Stbd. (maybe partly as a consequence of the impact) then sailed away, but made a 180 degr. turn and returned to the scene of the collision, (where the USS Fitzgerald was presumable still drifting) probably to see if any assistance was required.
She eventually proceeded towards her destination some substantial time later.


I think there are some confused journalists out there. Some are almost implying that the Crystal was maneuvering erratically before the collision, which doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve been assuming that the collision occurred at the first abrupt turn on the ship’s track, and the subsequent 180 turn and return to near the assumed initial impact was the Crystal, probably wanting to render aid if needed. I could be mistaken though. I’ve marked the following image to show where I think the collision occurred: image



Yes, the information currently is not complete. All we really know is it happened at night, Since the skipper was injured, I am wondering if he was in his quarters when it happened, which are usually not too far from the bridge. I hope that find the guys eventually. I assume at 56 miles this was in international waters. Since that ship probably had a big underwater snoze on it, there is probably a big hole under the water line.


It happened 56 miles (don’t know if statue or nautical) from Yokosuka Base, but in Japanese waters.
Since this happened at 0230 hrs. L/T and in relatively open waters, most likely both the CO of the Navy ship and the Master of the Crystal was sound asleep. On the Crystal the Second Mate would have been OOW, with a lookout only. (No helmsman as the ship would have been on Autopilot)
The engine room would most likely have been unmanned as the ship had UMS class

As can be seen from the above plot the vessel continued at near normal sea speed for quite a while after the collision.On a ship of this size and type, with a single slow speed engine it is not simple to stop or reverse the engine, or even to reduce RPMs.

Here is the vessel specs from NKK Class:


Right or wrong, AIS is ubiquitous now. It shows up on your radar and ECDIS, not just a little box anymore, and people rely on it too much.

If a ship is underway without nav lights, which the Navy sometimes does, and is a in collision, then the Pennsylvania Rule applies. It doesn’t mean they’re at fault but the burden of proof shifts to them to prove they are not. Could the same apply if you’re not using AIS? Has there been such a case since AIS came out?


I would find strange in this case (collision around16:30 UTC) they would increase speed and decide to turn back only 36 minutes later. Medias are saying 2:30 Local so it is -9h UTC witch is 17:30 the day before. So on my pic, the ship is at 17:30 UTC. I would find more logical Crystal hit around this time, slowed down, made a 180 and stick around for assistance for about 1 hour before proceeding to port. That would imply Crystal did an sharp almost180 just before and may be could see he was overtaking the Fitzgerald after this turn. More info needed…


The BBC is now also reporting that the Crystal turned ~180 degrees before hitting the Fitzgerald. I still think they’re confused. @ombugge 's hypothesis sounds more plausible to me.

Marine traffic records suggest the ACX Crystal made a sudden U-turn roughly 25 minutes before the collision with the USS Fitzgerald. It is not clear why it changed course.


I’ve been in that area many times. Don’t know what happened in this case but it is not uncommon for ship on heavy oil to make round turns rather then reduce speed for a timed arrival at the pilot station if they are ahead of schedule.


True enough. My use of give way was not the best choice of words. The action by a give way vessel and the action of a vessel overtaking another are similar, stay out of the other vessels way and don’t impede its passage. Avoid crossing the bow.

Different scenarios from the onset could have caused the visual damage in the pictures of each vessel.

The hard turn to starboard by the container vessel could also be from different scenarios.

Steering failure

Gyro fault

A give way vessel trying to avoid a collision too late.

A stand on vessel that determines that collision cannot be avoided by actions from the five way vessel alone.

A vessel in extremis, an imminent collision.

A vessel that was just involved in a collision.


You mean even BBC is no longer infallible???

Every time I read or hear anything reported on the media that I have witnessed, or know thing or two about, I get amazed at how wrong they can report it. Yet some take anything written as gospel truth.

In maritime cases it is inevitable, as journalists are as a rule not very knowledgeable on things maritime.

PS> Maybe Trump is on to something??


Lol, no. I thought they were usually a little bit better about fact-checking. But I’ve been fooled before.

[quote=“ombugge, post:32, topic:45129, full:true”]Every time I read or hear anything reported on the media that I have witnessed, or know thing or two about, I get amazed at how wrong they can report it. Yet some take anything written as gospel truth.

In maritime cases it is inevitable, as journalists are as a rule not very knowledgeable on things maritime. [/quote]

Having been [mis]quoted in print, I have to concede that you make a good point.

They’re not sending their best!


There is a difference in wording between a give way vessel and a vessel require not to impede the safe passe of another vessel.

A vessel required not to impede has to keep out of the way so as to not create risk of collision. In the event the situation would evolve to a risk of collision, even if the vessel required not to impede become the stand on vessel, it does not and remains with the obligation of not impeding. However, if the vessel of witch the passage of is not to be impeded is now also at risk of collision, he should comply with the colregs and therefore become either the give way or stand on. So the requirement of not impeding is one level above being the give way vessel.

In an overtaking situation, any other rule of part B section 1 and 2 are void, only rule 13 apply. That is if a vessel is required to to impeded fail to clear the way and it becomes an overtaking situation, the vessel of witch the passage is not to be impeded has to keep clear. There is no more impede stuff. Overtaking vessel has to keep clear no matter what.

This can arise in some strange situation like a vessel not under command overtaking another vessel, the vessel not under command has to keep clear… only rule 13 apply. Rule 18 start with “except where Rules 9, 10 and 13 otherwise require”


So in case of not impeding situation, the situation will always be to not impede no matter how evolves the situation for the vessel required not to impede. The not impeding situation for the vessel not to be impeded can evolve to a risk of collision, and should act accordingly. So the not impede situation can evolve to a crossing situation for example.

Except when it is becomes an overtaking situation, only rule 13 apply not matter the rest of the rules. That is not matter the change in aspect of the overtaken vessel, the previously overtaking vessel has to keep clear and cannot evolve to another type of situation (like crossing vessels)


It has indeed happens to me because of a faulty capacitor that my vessel has hard turned to starboard no warning… Very hard to diagnose because the capacitor would behave normally after.


The Navy is also prone to this kind of behavior. Continuous circles just without regard to schedules.

Wasn’t there a similar accident (without the loss of life) about 10 years ago involving a Navy ship and a small container ship? I believe the root cause of that accident was the lookouts on the bridge being overridden by the CIC and “jooking” their way into a collision.

I also agree with some other commenters here that officers have become very dependent on AIS. If it’s not on the AIS, it’s hard for some to fathom that there is any target to speak of. I’ve also noticed a disturbing trend of mates designating the AIS signature on the radar instead of starting an ARPA plot.

This was a tragic accident and I truly feel for the families of the lost.


I think you misunderstood part of my initial post.

I was bringing up two completely different scenarios that could both cause similar visual damage as seen in the initial images of each vessel.

Not an overtaking situation that an officer on watch then tries to turn around in his or her mind in to a crossing situation before safely clear of the overtaking vessel.

But two different scenarios that could have caused the damage. And I’m sure that there are other potential scenarios that could have caused it as well.


It looks like all of the news agencies are going with the Crazy Ivan hypothesis. I guess I’ll have a crack at it for fun.

  1. 16:30 UTC, ACX Crystal turns to starboard after noticing that they’re on a course to collide with a radar contact.
  2. Six minutes later they turn to port after clearing the contact.
  3. My guess on the direction of travel of the Fitzgerald at this time is ~300-350 deg.
  4. Crystal steams ahead for twenty minutes or so until ~17:00 UTC Heading ~60
  5. Crystal thinks again, maybe they don’t want to Costa Concordia their containers onto one of the little island/mountains in the area? They turn ~180 degrees
  6. The Crystal steams ahead with a heading of ~260 wanting to intercept their original course.
  7. Some time around 17:30-ish UTC the Crystal again encounters the Fitzgerald, it’s super effective.
  8. Crystal loiters for a bit to provide assistance, and check their own ship for damage, then picks up their original course and leaves the area.
  9. 22:00 UTC - SEA QUEST SHIP MGMT INC. attorneys call the ACX Crystal.
  10. 2:45 UTC - Contraband, errant documents thrown overboard, Crystal heads into port.


Ho sry then. I agree, we are doing our best guess with the little amount of info we have. Still a good exercise :wink: