USS Fitzgerald collides with ACX Crystal off coast of Japan


Or in 6 minutes you do 1/10th of your speed, in NM, so you just have to move the decimal over. 3minutes would be half of that. Obviously, because speed is measured in Nautical Miles per Hour. We don’t do speed in Yards per hour.


That is a very old joke and was originally a joke about the British Royal Navy, which is famous for it’s pomp and arrogance.


Lack of failure does not imply success


Just another observation about this unfortunate event.

It very much appears that the Crystal was steaming 0n about 075/080 degrees.

The impact and consequent reaction caused her to veer to starboard creating the right handed dogleg in the AIS track. This is at 1630 UTC, Japan +9 = 0130

This would have been beyond the limits of the automatic pilot and the crew would have been regaining control whilst establishing what happened.

She subsequently makes the U-torn back to the scene.

The Fitz was heading SSW, maybe 150 degrees.

At the time of the collision the moon was at an azimuth of 117, altitude +23.

Effectively the Fitz was in shadow. She is also designed for stealth.

She was also not squawking AIS.

Given that she may have been operating with war navigation lights instead of full strength ones, and the fact that it was broken cloud, it may simply be that the Crystal just couldn’t / didn’t see her.

Remember these are busy busy waters and there would have been a sea of lights from deep sea, coastal and fishing vessels.

Also there are known issues with warship lights.

The wind was NE 13/16 knots, enough to cause some sea clutter so perhaps that was set high on the Crystal’s radar - the seas around the coast are wildly variable.


I thought the US Military had gone metric, or does that only apply to the Army?

In Close Formation Bravo with MTBs the distance between boats were referred to in NATO manuals as “30 Yards”, but for all practical purposes, “meters” were used by all Europeans, except the Brits…
Nobody who eyeball the distance between boats would be able to discern the difference.

PS> This was in 1965-66. A lot of things may have changed since then.


If that is how the Navy reads a compass it explains a lot.

These fine looking pillows

There should be no reason for the Master to be on the bridge at this time. His presents would be needed when they entered Tokyo Bay and for berthing. He would have a busy day ahead of him once moored as well. Any prudent Captain would get his rest when he can and trust his Officers to handle the navigation in relatively open waters.

Nobody assume that there will be an accident of this type on a clear night in these waters, and nobody take the eccentricity of Naval vessels into consideration when writing their Night Orders. (Maybe they should, this close to a major US Navy Base??)


Meant to be

The Fitz was heading SSE, maybe 150 degrees. Well spotted.

Agree withOMBugge,

I used to do this rune every 14 days. Typically as Master I would arrange for a wake up call passing O Shima Island for the run into Tokyo Bay.


Yes I’m fully aware of that, hence the “true”.
I have heard this joke for many years as well, first in the British version and then as it migrated over to the USN. Maybe the arrogance migrated with it??


I don’t know but it seems the angle could have been even more acute than what you allow. And if so no mystery as to why an “abrupt change in course”. The Fitzgerald’s momentum, possibly reaction of helmsman to steer away from what just hit them could all be reasons for that turn.

Looking at the rip on the Crystals bow (see below) and the fact it seems at this point to extend only down the one side and further given the nature of the structure in the stem area of a ship like that with breast hooks, stringers and generally dense framing what on the Fitzgerald is strong enough to create that damage? Perhaps the hull / main deck edge?

Looking at below, perhaps where marked was initial impact of the topsides (the bulb having displaced/ cracked / tore / penetrated the hull below where we can see. Looking at the “folds” of the topsides in way of / just above main deck this could have been the path of the tear in the Crystals hull, this stronger section of the Fitzgerald’s construction acting like a can opener. Tear-fold, slide, tear, fold, slide. Many may be picturing that bulb buried in the hull but it wouldn’t take all that to present serious flooding problem. One good crack/tear along the side as the Crystal pushed the Fitzgerald off out of its way would be enough allow flooding enough they had to fight to save the ship.

The nature of the damage to the Fitzgerald’s topsides above this line is not surprising given the flare of the Crystals hull at the bow. And if the angle was more acute than you propose might account for the swiping look to it.

With what we know to date it does not seem likely to me the Fitzgerald was not making way or “stopped” (in a traffic lane?) and in fact looks more like it was moving pretty quickly. If the USN has anything like VDR’s that will settle it but in the meantime if it was moving at a good clip and impact angle was far less than 90 degrees this makes sense to me why no “center-punch” in the Fitzgerald and why no need to back out of her or some other elaborate explanation for becoming dis-entangled. Again the momentum of the collision and perhaps deliberate helm commands to get away from what just hit them. Then again if it was stopped would that make a difference (nature of damage-wise) if the blow was more glancing?

Likewise I don’t find the speculation of the Crystal’s track after much of a mystery either. Until the crew of the Crystal interviews are published we will not know what they thought they were facing and their thought process in getting their ship’s situation stabilized. Wake crew, avoid other traffic, damage inspections, return to scene. Not sure what is behind that speculation other than to cast aspersions without enough facts or evidence. Sure the USN has been subject to the same in this thread though.

But these things are really the least interesting part of this event. Situational awareness, keeping a proper lookout, bridge resource management, whatever you want to call “it” will be determined as faulty on both ships. Someone will say why and someone will say how to avoid that in the future and mostly things will go on going as they are. If you’ve read this far all you can say to yourself is “be a better seaman, be aware of assumptions, look, listen, avoid complacency” and on and on in similar vein re-learning the lessons of our individual and collective past mistakes and close calls.


The standards of the officers of ACX Crystal should be carefully investigated. The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has during eleven years evaluated the standards of the maritime schools in the Philippines, without coming to a final conclusion if Filipino officers should be banned to sail on EU-ships or not.


The article is not available to non-members of Fairplay and I have no interest in joining but…

This does not surprise me but what do you mean by “the standards of the officers” and “carefully investigated”?

Banned from EU ships or to sail in EU waters?

The Crystal’s officiers will all have appropriate and valid COC’s / licenses, etc. If however, you mean to suggest that they perform at a different level than seamen of other nations even northern Europe you are in for verbal fisticuffs with some certain forum members who will have none of that talk at all!

If you have to take a pee test after an accident would it also be valid to subject appropriate personnel to questioning on technical topics (rules, system/equipment operations, etc) post-incident?

A prudent and non-vindictive inquisitor could probably come to a reasonable conclusion about the “qualifications” of the seaman as to being in over his head or not.

Then again isn’t that what CG type authorities should be doing when they take statements and ask questions? Then again-again are they (CG type authorities) necessarily best qualified to conduct same?

Will the EU create a white list and black list for credentials? Even though a signatory nations “maritime administration” approved all the training and credentialing? Ah enforcement rears it’s ugly head in the whole IMO-ILO-ISM-STCW et al scheme.


Fairplay is a very good family owned company doing business in tugs and rescue. All professional seamen. But they have no experiences with pinoy crews. So let’s not veer off course.
I wonder why EMSA needs ten years to find out nothing. Should have asked us . We were the ones to work with phillipine crews the last two decades and we were very much satisfied. Fine seamen.


nobody yet has listed all the unknowns with this collision vs. the few knowns which I think is needed

here are the knowns

  1. the course and speed of the ACX CRYSTAL leading up to the collision
  2. what the ACX CRYSTAL did afterwards
  3. when the ACX CRYSTAL notified the Japan Coast Guard

here are all the unknowns

  1. the course and speed of the FITZGERALD prior to the collision? (biggest single unknown)
  2. any communications between the two vessels before the collision took place?
  3. the number of persons on the ACX CRYSTAL’s bridge prior to the collision?
  4. was the approach of the ACX CRYSTAL plotted on the FITZGERALD? (if not, why not?)
  5. were there lookouts on the FITZGERALD stationed aft of the beam? (if not, why not?)
  6. what navigation lights on the FITZGERALD would have been seen by the CRYSTAL prior to the collision?

now it has been mentioned that the FITZGERALD was on a heading of 150deg previous to the collision but unless the FITZGERALD maneuvering to avoid the CRYSTAL at the last moments then the impact would have been at an acute angle and buried the CRYSTAL’s bow deep into the FITZGERALD’s hull. I still see the CRYSTAL approaching FITZGERALD from the latter’s starboard quarter at a relative angle which might have been crossing or overtaking possibly leading to a different interpretation on each respective vessel. Is it CONFIRMED that FITZGERALD was on a 150deg heading before the impact?


It is possible to read the article for free on Fairplay.
The quality of the the maritime schools on the Philippines is a long standing issue.


Fairplay being referred to is a shipping magazine.


It appears - at this point - this was just asserted in a post not based on a particular factual report.


thanks…I believe the FITZGERALD was on a course similar to the CRYSTAL’s which the damage indicates


Thanks for the new link (2014 article in SeaTrade). That worked. This also explains the appearance of the “Marina” institution my Filipino colleagues have had to contend with in recent years. Wonder if there is any quantitative indication of the plans executed in 2014 (more auditors, ect) to the quality of seafarer in 2017. Was that the nature of the article in your first link? Is this a follow on inspection by this EMSA? Discussion might be better served in a new thread though.


More than a magazine. Fairplay used to do IMO numbers with LR (Lloyds Register Fairplay). Now runs IMO data on behalf of.