USS J McCain / Alnic MC collision near Singapore


And it looks like they are getting one.

Not a problem so long as they seriously redefine “competent.”

While AIS is a very good tool, relying on it over plotting of radar returns (be it with ARPA or manual plotting) can lead an officer to an incorrect conclusion and possibly turn it in to a technology-assisted collision due to incorrect use of your tools. I for one don’t expect US warships to transmit AIS data and don’t assume lack of an AIS target indicates lack of a physical vessel.

Singapore is of course an area with high traffic density and I would expect small craft in the area that did not have AIS in use at all along with them being poor radar targets. As good as radar ‘can’ be, certainly this is not the place to be glued to the monitor, the view out the window might be quite enlightening.


Or use random fake name/MMSI, that will make them visible on AIS.


lm1883 Top Contributer - This is nothing new to the members of this forum, many of whom have been saying this their entire careers. Just saying… the navy’s navigation prowess has always been suspect.

I wasn’t posting a comment for you. It was in response to someone early on who warned about making early assumptions and seemed to be siding with the Navy.

By the way, are you talking about the U.S. Navy, or by not capitalizing navy are you talking about navy in the generic sense?


One point is that the U.S. Navy needs to figure out, among other things, how to avoid collisions without relying on AIS or any single fine and dandy technology.

AIS, Radar, ARPA, and bridge-to-bridge radio are only a few of the tools to help us avoid a collision. And all of them can also be misused to the point they contribute to a collision.


It will be interesting to see if the McCain’s speed changed drastically during this. I know I’ve seen some Navy ships that are either a) going to cross clear and stop DIW when they’re dead ahead, or b) look like they’re barely going to cross and punch it up to 30+ kts and they’re gone.

I never understood either scenario, but if you’re barely going to cross and can do 30 kts, just fucking turn right and take the stern. Yea yea COLREGS I know, but a guaranteed way not to hit anything.


I have regularly seen other warships on various duties, from peaceful passage to NATO/EU patrols, using obviously random AIS name (e.g. “Warship666”) with obviously random MMSI/IMO, turned on as necessary for heavy traffic or when approaching/hailing vessels. They were quite obvious when they needed to be, and just radar targets when they didn’t. The practice seems to be well established.


The US Navy, in particular. I have never had a close call with a foreign naval vessel and the foreign naval vessels I have been exposed to seem to have a better grasp of underway navigation than USN sailors. My experience, however, I’m sure if you started a thread about close calls with the Navy it would fill quickly.

FWIW I’m not quick to assign blame on any party (and I’m not doing so now) when it comes to incidents like this as I much prefer to read a report with complete findings. It is a professional courtesy i would hope to extended to myself should I ever find my myself in front of the “Man”.


My radical left wing friend thinks the Chinese are jamming GPS signals, causing everything from radars to gyro going crazy…

Impossible, of course


Navy’s ship AIS could be encoded not to broadcast more than 20 miles and AIS satellites could easily block the info.

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Sujet : [gCaptain Forum] [Professional Mariner Forum] USS J McCain / Alnic MC collision near Singapore

    August 22      

I suspect they’d be a lot less reluctant if everyone in the universe couldn’t pull AIS data off the web.

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    nile          Just Browsing        
    August 22      

Something bothers me. The area where those ship navigate are not war zones and there is no war going on there and still they keep their AIS turned off which can be very confusing for merchant ship who rely a lot on AIS for its quick acquisition of data and collision prevention (much faster than rada…

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Sort of a repeat from a post a couple months ago.

This fixation with AIS is absurd. Reliance on AIS data for determining risk of collision and appropriate maneuvers should you as a give way vessel need to do something about avoiding said collision will get you burned.

Avoidance of collision by U.S. Navy warships that hinges on use of AIS information will get us burned.

As dear Nancy once said, “Just say NO.”




Welcome to gCaptain David.


I agree. SSOs are already filling a few active duty billets such as on the USS Cowpens. This however was due to the CO being a KPer, and also the ship not getting underway, but rather being laid up for over a year during modernization.

For the most part, they normally due some BS two week ADT for the Navy per year, and thats it. I get their emails about ADTs, and never are they to do something on an active ship, but rather just general support roles.

They could easily put SSOs to run the bridge and engineering.


Take this with a grain of salt but many rumors floating around on forums that:

  • The USS John S. McCain suffered a “steering casualty” as the warship was beginning its approach into the Strait of Malacca, near Singapore, causing it to collide with a commercial tanker Monday, a US Navy official stated.
    The official said it was unclear why the crew couldn’t utilize the ship’s backup steering systems to maintain control of ship. Earlier, another US Navy official had stated that early indications were the destroyer experienced a loss of steering right before the collision, but that steering had been eventually regained after the collision.

  • The flooded spaces were enginering, shaft alley, communications, and a berthing compartment.

  • I’ve also heard rumors a steering casualty occurred at high speed on the USS John S. McCain


As I see it there is a huge difference in the way the master of a merchant ship is trained and the commanding officer of a war ship like the McCain. You donot need a fleet wide study to discover what is fundamentally wrong with the present situation.

A ship’s master has reached that position through many years of slowly growing through the ranks, year in year out. They earned those ranks by hard study, always honing and expanding there navigational knowledge and skills, mostly at there own expense. As a master you are standing on the top of the pyramid, you can call yourself an experienced and seasoned mariner, you have almost seen it all.

Looking at the career path of the commanding officer of the McCain you can see the difference. What we call ‘desk tigers’ are constantly moved around from one shore position to the other, hands of many trades but no deep navigational training and skills. And then because they need some sea time for a next promotion they are parachuted on a ship with many hundreds of personnel.

The art of commanding a ship in a safe and professional way, based on many years of sea time, sound experience and knowledge, has then been degraded into just a job of managing a ship. Only managerial skills seems to be required in the world of the Navy. As a manager, I think, he is probably totally dependent on the lower ranks for taking navigational decisions. He can hardly show the required leadership in difficult or emergency situations as he lacks the experience. A ticket to disaster, so far is clear now…

What the Navy needs are officers who are fully dedicated to the navigational profession and have comparable training and skills with enough sea time as there counterparts in the merchant marine with maybe just every now and then a desk job to make it juicy, not the other way around.


Latest from CNA:

And from Splash 24/7:
Note that USN is calling for a press conference this evening in Singapore. (Now??)


It’s a weak excuse when there are so many other sources for that data. Even if you can’t find it publicly, you can get it with a subscription to Stratfor’s service. But chances are, you can find out everything you need to know via public sources. The fact that the lack of AIS broadcasting in two or more of these collisions may now be implicated shows how wrong the Navy is here. They don’t even need to transmit all of the time. This is the second similar incident in as many months.


Broadcasting an AIS signal would reduce the risk of naval vessels not being detected. Naval vessels broadcasting AIS data would not change the way watch standing officers use or missuse AIS data.


I don’t think anyone has stated or even implied that AIS is a cure all for anything. Like radar or eyeballs, it is just another source of information that can be used by a prudent mariner.

And just like a radar, not using it in a situation or location where every piece of information is critical to safe operation is the real absurdity.

Not using AIS because some bad guy someplace in the world might see it is equally absurd. It’s not like the Navy ship and its painted on name and number along with its general appearance are a mystery to anyone with a pair of binoculars who is even remotely interested. Anyone can send that information instantly around the world via the internet at the same speed or maybe even faster than a commercial or hobbyist AIS site.


agreed…that somehow the Navee thinks by not transmitting an AIS signal makes their vessels invisible is idiocy! In the high traffic areas that these last two collisions have taken place the fact that there was no AIS signal from the naval vessels may not have been the ultimate cause but it certainly could have been the difference in there being a collision or not.