US Navy ships collide off California coast after 'steering malfunction'

This should be interesting reading in the days to come

An 844-foot-long U.S. Navy assault ship collided with a refueling tanker Wednesday about 120 miles off the coast of California in the Pacific Ocean.

The USS Essex, a helicopter carrier, was pulling alongside the supply ship Yukon for a routine replenishment at sea when the Essex suffered an apparent “steering malfunction” and the two ships collided.

While there was damage to both ships, no one was injured and no fuel was spilled.The ships likely just bounced off each other, maritime safety consultant James W. Allen told The Associated Press.Even so, Allen said, with massive ships, it can be “a pretty hard bump that can bend metal” and cause dents. The Essex, known as the Iron Gator, resembles a small aircraft carrier, while the Yukon is 677 feet long.

The Essex was on its way to port in San Diego after 12 years of deployment in the Pacific. It had been based at Sasebo, Japan, and was carrying 982 crew members.
The Yukon arrived at the Navy base in San Diego after 3 p.m. (6 p.m. ET) Wednesday with its crew of 82, including 78 civilian mariners and four military crew members.

The Essex was keeping to its planned arrival time of 9 a.m. (12 p.m. ET) Thursday, according to the AP.

Ah, the benefits of being on the other side of the planet…keeping the watch while the rest of the world sleeps!

Unrepping is dangerous. I hope no one got hurt.

"You win some, lose some, and wreck some. " —Dale Earnhardt

Initial photos show Essex damage forward of their starboard elevator and hull almost all the way aft. Have not seen photos yet of Yukon, but surmise that the Essex elevator gutted Yukon’s port side, probably including lifeboats and rooms. If anyone sees photos of Yukon’s damage, please post a link.

I remember my captain on the Lenthall once said that such-and-such was the only Kaiser class oiler not to have been in an UNREP collision/allison. Even a professional dancer will step on his partner’s toes now and then. It happens. I’m more surprised this made the news.

Find out now that this isn’t the first time YUKON’s gotten roughed up in an unrep mishap.


Unrepping on parallel courses was the reason the USN was able to project US Military Force way past our borders for years without mooring or almost stopping. You were able to continue to your destination and maintain defensive formation. The russians could never figure it out and had to bow to stern unrep, dead slow making them easy to pick off. I was master helmsman on USCG ships I was on and it was a difficult 4 hours steering tenths of degrees and overcoming the suction/surge crossing the stern of a tanker doing 14-16 knots when coming in on station and keeping the wires taut. I bet that was what happened, new helmsman, new OOD, got caught up in the surge then the suction while coming in on station, helmsman does one thing, OOD panics and reduces speed removing water off the rudder, helmsman loses control, oversteers and bob’s your uncle.

I was lucky, if we hadn’t unrepped with someone before (LENTHALL, MONAGAHELA, YUKON, etc…) I always asked for a dry run and when they asked why, I told them each one is different and I needed to get the feel for her before I spent 4 hours alongside. I also told the OOD not to remove or increase power without letting me know. I had some Junior Officers give me a hard time about telling them what to do before I became a Chief Petty Officer but the CO’s normally sided with me because of my commercial experience before I joined. The one time they would not do a dry run, I refused to helm and they almost sideswiped hit the tanker with the bow. We immediately punched out barely avoiding collision, put me on the helm, and did what I asked them to do in the first place.

With the downsizing of the Navy and less and less opportunities to perform and practice this highly intricate maneuver, expect more accidents like this published and unpublished especially with what I perceive as the dumbing down of the bridges in the USCG with a few notable exceptions. Thankfully, I feel the new cCommandant of Cadets at the USCG Academy will remedy this situation, at least with her graduates.

I will not speak for what occurs on a USN bridge because I have never had the honor and privilege of being on a USN warship bridge underway.

Well said 'Boats!, I almost got swept overboard during an UnRep in the Med…Forward and midships had been shut down due to weather and we spent hours refueling instead of the usual 45 minutes. Hard to imagine how much fuel went into the ocean!

[QUOTE=mtskier;69747]Hard to imagine how much fuel went into the ocean![/QUOTE]

According to the log, NONE!

Generally, the larger ship is the “Guide” and maintains hdg while the approach ship does all the adjusting. When I was on the USS Kalamazoo we were “guide” for everything except carriers. Got the kingposts tangled up in JFK’s flight deck nets once, The Abe Lincoln experienced a hard over steering failure while we were hooked up with 3 fuel and 1 cargo rigs, now that was entertaining. We also nearly overturned a small Israeli supply vessel when we tensioned up a rig. Generally the smaller the vessel the more difficult the UNREP, since the side loading is considerable. Always a hairy 4-6 hours on the helm. We managed over 400 consecutive UNREPS without a hitch during the 1st Gulf War. I thought it was hellish at the time, but you sure did learn a lot in a short time period. As far as fuel in the water, I certainly never saw fuel dumped out of hoses over the side, or an 8 hour UNREP with a dual 8 inch hose rig spraying JP5 from significantly cracked hoses at 110psi the entire time. Nope, never saw anything like that.

Looks like the Commanding Officer on the Essex has been relieved according to the AP.

Kind of sucks for him, but I guess accountability comes from the top down.

I’m trying to copy the story from Fox News, but can’t figure out how on this phone…

here you go

He was only in command a few weeks and the ship suffered a steering failure while an ouler was alongside. I dont think the guy is being given a fair shake yes he is the CO and everything is his fault but the navy knew the ship was in rough shape. It was heading straight to the shipyard to get repaired.

Might be more to it, like after action and follow up actions, etc.