Captain John, you brought up some very good points in your article. When I first read your article, I figured that you would be getting some negative comments from people sympathetic to the USN. However, I can understand your point of view from my experience of having worked onboard various OSV's as an AB Special, and Licensed Captain because Merchant Mariners don't have to go through so many layers of command when an order is given like the US Navy does. When two vessels are in a situation where you don't know the other Captain's intentions, extra seconds can mean the difference between having a tragic maritime accident, or totally avoiding it. I have worked in restricted maneuverability conditions onboard a seismograph vessel where VHF radio and radar operations were vital to the safety of our operation to run smoothly without a hitch. We couldn't just turn on a dime while pulling long seismograph cables to so we had to try to notify other vessels of all types, and give them at least a minimum 2 mile CPA from our location. While working on OSV's on many occasions, at night, I would notice Satellite Oil Platforms that had navigation lights which were not working at all which is not uncommon. This usually happened when I was working out of the Exxon Mobile dock at Grand Isle while navigating through the Rabbit Field just south of Port Fourcheon. Navigating out there can be very nerve-racking especially at night, especially when there are numerous Satelite platforms, heavy fog, and or, heavy vessel traffic to deal with too. Our work in the oil patch separated the men from the boys, and I would bet that any Captain of any tonage not used to that type of work would be overwhelmed at first by it. I still remember the very first time I unloaded oil field personnel from my vessel to the platform by swing ropes in heavy seas which is an extremely dangerous maneuver. You have to time the wave action, just right, while backing up, otherwise you can damage the platform, damage your vessel, or get oil field personnel hurt or killed if they fall. I can not stress the fact that working out in the oil patch is one of the most dangerous maritime jobs because one has to deal with so many variables at once, so radio communications with everyone, and radar observer operations are so vital for safe operations. Sometimes it can be very hard to communicate with US Navy Ships, other Merchant Ships, or Fishing Vessels because of different protocols, or language barriers. I have witnessed this first hand, many times, and it can be very stressful. There have also been times where the other Captain got mixed up on whether we should meet or pass on the one whistle side, or two whistle side, but that rarely happened. Working out at sea is dangerous enough. However, with the modern technology that we currently have, I do believe that this maritime accident could have been prevented. Yet, there will always be the chance of mechanical failure, and operator error. That can't be taken out of the equation because equipment will always fail and human beings will always make mistakes. However, it can be lessened as much as humanly possible. Many people may not know it, but most maritime court proceedings would find both vessels at fault. That is just the way things are. It saddens me whenever I hear any news when sailors or mariners are injured, or killed at sea because I have known of, or personally witnessed such tragedies. OSV crews have to deal with dangerous situations everyday, and we are a lot like close family members. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families, co-workers, and friends of the sailors who were killed. Whenever a maritime accident occurs, new guidelines are usually implemented to help prevent this from happening again, so these US Navy sailors didn't die in vain! However, this accident concerns me since it is the 2nd accident that has happened, this year, involving a US Navy Ship and another vessel while the fleet has been on naval operations near Japan and South Korea. The other accident involved a South Korean fishing vessel. Usually, one maritime accident is one too many!
On another note, I always enjoy reading your articles from gcaptain. Even though, your article might have stirred up a hornet's nest, it opened up much needed dialog between the USN and USMM in order for us to better understand our similarities, and our differences! That itself is a plus, and thank you John.