USS Fitzgerald collides with ACX Crystal off coast of Japan


Saying “both ships demonstrated poor seamanship” in no way equates to “equal blame”.


Semantically, I might agree. However…

  1. Even to the members of this forum, I would submit that saying “both ships demonstrated poor seamanship” goes a bit beyond Colregs 17.b, especially with nothing published to support this 7th Flt choice of words AND in view of the published testimony of Crystal’s bridge team (see earlier reports)
  2. To the uninformed general public reading that 7th Flt choice of words, it DOES equate to “equal blame”.
    … in my humble opinion.
    Just sayin’…


I could see that being the case with some people.


While the USN side of the situation continues in relative silence, it would be interesting to see a release of some Crystal VDR factual details by JTSB just for context, while the main investigation remains suspended.
Probably wishful thinking…


Here is the report


Landlubber here, with nothing like the experience of many people on this forum. From what I’ve read, there seems to be a big hole around the AIS system. Someone please correct or confirm my assumptions below:

  1. Crystal was on AIS and autopilot.
  2. Fitzgerald probably had AIS off, since the Navy doesn’t like people tracking US warships. Would that have made the Fitzgerald invisible to the Crystal autopilot? Possibly even invisible to Crystal radar and lookouts if the Fitzgerald has other fancy tech the rest of us don’t know about?
  3. Wan Hai was nearby and probably also on AIS. Could Wan Hai also have been on autopilot? Could the Fitzgerald have also been invisible to the Wan Hai autopilot? Did the Wan Hai make an adjustment that took it into the path of the Fitzgerald, not knowing the Fitzgerald was there, and the Fitzgerald adjusted without realizing it was heading into the path of the Crystal?

As a landlubber who knows nothing about how this all should work properly, I feel the Fitzgerald was like a child wearing dark clothing who decides to go out and play in traffic in the middle of the night. I have no problem with the Navy turning off AIS, but it sure seems like that means the Navy ships need to be much more vigilant because other ships may not know the Navy is there.

There are also some oddities about the Crystal’s behavior after the collision that I don’t understand. Is it possible no one was on the bridge at the time of the collision? Why did the Crystal continue on for a period of time before returning to the scene of the collision? Ship doesn’t turn on a dime? Took a while for them to figure out they had hit something? Radioed the home office for instructions on what to do?


Thank you for extracting that from the earlier (Quimby) USNI post. Much easier to get around.


Not probably, they DID have their AIS transmission disabled.

Autopilot doesn’t work like that, it doesn’t automatically avoid ships or land. The autopilot doesn’t “see” anything, all it does is maintain a given heading.

The AIS transmission being off wouldn’t effect radar or lookout detection. It has been discussed here that if they were running dark with just navigation lights on it might have been hard to see them against the lights from shore. It should have still been visible on radar.

I have seen a very laid it theory along these lines (I forget exactly who the third ship was), basically the idea that Fitzgerald was avoiding one vessel without regard to the added danger from the Crystal.

Pretty much.


Possible? Yes. Likely? No.

It took them less than 30 minutes to come about. They would have had to sound the general alarm, wake the crew at 0130, perform damage assessments to make sure they weren’t taking on water, then have the engineers prep the heavy fuel engine for maneuvering. I don’t believe it’s reasonable to expect that to be done any faster than they did.


This is my English translation of the same report by Reuters in Japan in Japanese.
ACX Crystal captain wrote to the company that while cruising to Tokyo bay at 18 knots, TWO watch crews of ACX found the destroyer on 40 degree port side 3NM in distance around 1:15AM. 5 minutes later the destroyer suddnely started moving and continued on thier collision course. While manually steering, ACX gave caution to the navy ship by turning on/off the light without any reaction. then decided to take hard starboard turn for collision avoidance but both ships crashed around 1:30AM.

From the navy report the two ships came together Crystal’s port side and Fitz stbd side at an angle of around 20-30 degrees. The Fitz was on a course of 230. Assuming the Fitz took no avoidance action and assuming the Crystal was making a turn to stbd then the Crystal would have had to come around from 080T to about 200T, a 120 degree turn to stbd at the time of the collision.

The Crystal’s AIS track does show a big turn to stbd.


I am having difficulty in mentally drawing a picture of this collision…

can someone draw a diagram of how they see it happening, scan it and then post that here for us to view and then comment on?

WTF did the FITZGERALD’s watch do in the last few seconds before these two ships crashed together?


Most likely not much, and for sure not enough to avoid the collision.


so correct me if I am mistaken but the two ships were set up to pass port to port and suddenly FITZGERALD’s OOW pulls a Crazy Ivan right across the bow of the ACX CRYSTAL (230deg heading to 130deg)? I believe this is what the master of the containership said occurred? This is USS PORTER in the Strait of Hormuz all over again!

No wonder the Navee refuses to release their vessel’s track!


In this depiction if you assume the Fitz is steady on a course of 230 degrees than the Crystal’s heading would be about 180 degrees. The Crystal would be in a hard right turn from 080 trying to avoid the Fitz.

When the Crystal first saw the Fitz it was reported at 040, on the port bow showing a green light, at 3 miles presumably on collision course.

The Crystal at 18 kts and the Fitz at 20 they would have closed very quickly. Had the Fizt altered course to stbd the two ship would have passed port to port. Had the Crystal altered to port contrary to the rules they would have passed stbd to stbd. The Crystal went hard stbd but couldn’t turn inside the Fitz’s track.

That big red arrow depicting the movement of the Crystal should not be straight but should be showing a hard right turn,


Thank you Capt-Phoenix. US Navy keeps looking worse and worse. I hope they weren’t playing video games in the CIC …


Well, it is clear to me that crew accommodation has not improved much on warships since 1960’s when I enjoyed it. Berthing 2 on the Fitz was a cramped, 105 m² crew cabin for 42 sailors, i.e. 2.5 m²/person, incl. everything (beds, shower, WC, lounge) below waterline and escapes (egresses, exits) were a couple of open, sloping ladders to the Berthing 1 cabin on the deck above. It seems the sailors were trapped like rats, when the Berthing 2 cabin was up-flooded due to hull leakage. 7 out of 35 in Berthing 2 didn’t make it out. It seems there were no bilge pumps fitted.
From the report:

  1. Because FITZGERALD would take on additional water if the ship moved too quickly on the transit home, speed was limited to approximately 3 to 5 knots. At 0914 all water levels were reported as holding steady.

  2. FITZGERALD was underway at 0453 at 3 knots. The ship was able to begin the transit to homeport under her own power.

Note: vessel arrived Yokosuka at 1607.

  1. Steering in a straight line was challenging given the damage FITZGERALD had sustained. The ship lost the ability to steer from the normal location in the pilothouse; steering was conducted from Aft Steering, an arrangement not often used but frequently practiced.

(page 22) … FTZ (was) underway in the Sea of Japan (?) on the way to Subic Bay, Philippines.

Note: The collision took place in the Pacific Ocean on the other side of Japan! The Commander Carrier Strike Group FIVE (C.F. WILLIAMS) must have looked on the wrong chart.


I am dissapointed about the continued slow action by US Navy in releasing all the factual data related to the Fitz accident.
If the facts (even only the facts) were released a week ago, We wouldn’t have to see another disastrous news today. Sharing painfully learned lessons accurately as quickly as possible is the indication of the strong will to prevent reoccurence of the tragedy in any organization. I am making this coment wihtout knowing the real cause of the accident near Malaysia.


If the Fitz was on 230:

Then she was the give was vessel.

As the earlier post she was like a kid in dark clothing going out on a freeway.

There is the possibility that she left tanking any action way too late.

She then rook a n emergency turn to starboard.

During the turn she lost what little situational awareness they had.

They kept turning starting to cross the Crystal.

The Crystal seeing this starts her turn.

They then inevitably collide.

#769 is interesting. Poor Fitz was subject to a cyber attack!


I like . It shows the damage of the latest USN ship involved in a collision - this time outside Singapore. The damage is in the waterline.
Merchant ships are built solidly according rules to last say 40 years or more. Plates are thick and frames are heavy. Not so on warships! Plates are thin and frames are weak. To save weight. Warships are very light structures. Due to a small contact, the thin hull side structure just gives way, the paint is not even damaged and sailors sleeping inside are trapped.
Well, that is how warships are built today. Light. And the accomodation? Cramped! Below waterline, etc. Of course sailors die as rats at the smallest contact.


This is port side aft. It seems the tanker (in ballast) bulbous bow rammed the USN ship from behind and pushed in the side shell plate and opened the USN ship as a sardine tin. .