USS Fitzgerald collides with ACX Crystal off coast of Japan


Uncritically accepting all published testimony & AIS data:

(1) the FITZ had been paralleling the ACX due eastwards for quite some time prior to collision
(2) the FITZ was sited at a relative distance & bearing of 3nm @ 40deg from the ACX at 1:15am
(3) the ACX made a slight turn northeastwards onto a 70deg heading between 1:18-1:20am
(4) the FITZ made a sudden turn around 1:20am, onto a collision course with the ACX, and remained thereon for the duration
(5) the WAN HAI made a slight turn around 1:20am, onto its own 70deg heading

Co-plotting all the information, a consistent story arises. Around 1:20am, the FITZ detected that the WAN HAI had turned onto a (near) collision course. The FITZ took avoidance action, cutting quickly in front of the WAN HAI, which then passed safely astern. Perhaps the FITZ’s stern lookout remained fixated on the looming WAN HAI?

However, the FITZ was now cutting across a major, large-vessel, shipping lane. The FITZ’s approximately 130deg heading put the ACX on a “CBDR” collision course. If so, then it was the STARBOARD lookout who could have been more diligent.

According to this picture, the relative approach angle was initially 130-70=60deg. But the final collision impact angle was closer to 30deg. So the wildly evasive action of the ACX Captain, throwing his vessel into full reverse & hard-to-starboard – possibly in conjunction with a corresponding last second action from the FITZ – was apparently partially effective in reducing relative impact speeds & angles.


When I was in the Navy 1965/70 a typical exercise at sea could be:

  1. Departure from home port, e.g. Gothenburg.
  2. Arrival at exercise area to e.g. hunt and destroy an enemy submarine. The area could be 30 n.m. long and 15 n.m. wide off normal sea lanes in the Kattegatt. 450 square n.m. is a big area to search for a small sub with our sonars. The sub to avoid being found could just drop to the bottom and stop.
  3. I remember we were going up and down the area at different speeds/courses all the time, i.e. changing course often. Speed could vary from 5 to 25 knots.
  4. The CO was of course in the war room below the nav.bridge wondering, where the enemy sub could be leaving the navigation and collision avoidance to an officer on the nav.bridge.
  5. The engine rooms were fully manned with all four boilers running needing adjusting all the time as power output changed, people looked for leaks, etc.
  6. Nobody was sleeping aboard.
  7. At the end of the exercise we returned to the home port and slept.
  8. I really wonder why the FITZ changed course in the middle of the night in a busy sea lane full of ships going to/from Yokohama with the CO asleep in his suite. What kind of exercise could it have been?


It wasn’t an exercise, they were simply transiting.


yep…and that’s a lot better story at the Green Table. “Crossed the T
without notifying the CO” would be worst case. Hoping you’re right…for
the OOD’s sake!


Just to throw in my two cents…

1). I don’t see any way the fitz could have disentangled herself without the Crystal backing out of/ off of her. The damage seems to show that she slid down the flair until her forward (realative) motion ceased, then got punched by the bulb.

2). Pinched as she was the Fitz would have been traveling at the same speed as the Crystal, dead sideways, or close to it. Water had to be piling pretty high on the port side, probably took a bit of time to get around to “all stop”, hence the bow thruster theory holds true in my uneducated opinion…

3). The Crystal may have kept some way on to hold the Fitz in place, even a bad but stable condition is better than a bad and unstable condition.

4). Listening to the Porter audio two things seem notable, she scurried under the bow of a vlcc and sounded the danger signal, and her OOD confused Port and Stb…


The differences in original, relative speeds must have been considerable as seen by the structural damages on the Crystal’s port side focs’le and the Fitz’ starboard superstructure and deck house. During the structural deformations taking a certain time - 10-20 seconds? - speeds and directions were reduced and changed. It must have been a very noisy collision felt and heard by all aboard.
During the collision/deformations taking place the two ships were entangled for a while, but soon Crystal bounced out/off to starboard while Fitz turned to port.


So, Fitz will return to CONUS on a heavy lift ship. The RFP indicates she might go all the way to a shipyard in Maine. Returning her to BIW would be best. Built there, in a great yard.

But the last few mile from refloating in deep water, up the Kennebec River to BIW, will be interesting. Not likely the heavy lift ship could clear the narrow rip area off Popham Beach.


Will they take the NW Passage?

Going south to Magellan any time of the year on a submersible is fraught with hazards.


So, what exactly is wrong with the graving docks in Pearl Harbor? Or is it simply a case of “thanking the senator from the great state of _________” by sending them to a yard in CONUS?


Are there any ice-class heavy lifters and icebreaker escort available? The Northwest Passage is not ice-free yet:


Redbox have been serving Sabetta for years


The two Redbox ice class vessels are deck cargo carriers but not semi-submersibles.
Why can’t a HLV pass through Panama Canal with the Fitz on deck?
If the bow have to be outboard that can be over the stern.


edit: too slow

ombugge, based on some figures I found with Google, the propellers extend below baseline. Of course, if you have the ship on blocks, then it should be ok.


The Fitz is a relatively light load. Even high cribbing is not a problem for the larger HLVs.

Here is high cribbing for two jackups to be loaded on a HLV:

How it looks after deck dry:

Admittedly, it took some trim and list to bring this load out of the water. The Fitz would be much easier.


This link is pretty good :

So the FITZ hull is now watertight again after repairs in DD at Yokosuka but the four gas turbine engines in two engine rooms that were flooded are so damaged, so they cannot turn the props, so the thing cannot move by itself. The generators aboard are also still not working. Even worse - to tow the ship to a yard for repairs is not possible because it can sink any moment for unknown reasons. President Trump is very upset about the whole thing.

So I twittered Donald - why not just tow your warship out to sea … and sink it? The ship was a useless rusty wreck from the start anyway!

I await a twitter reply from Donald soon and will copy it here.

Donald is the ultimate shipowner and must face up to his responsibilities.


A more realistic interpretation of the article: the US Navy doesn’t want to stress the damaged hull girder further, so they have opted for a dry tow because semi-submersible heavy lift vessels are available in the market worldwide and they have prior experience from transporting USS Cole. Conventional tow may be cheaper, but why risk losing a potentially repair-worthy vessel?

We’re not in the middle of a global war so there’s no need to take unnecessary risks and play hero.


I think any decision to take Fitz to CONUS is based on getting her into one of the building yards for that class of ship, as opposed to a fully repair capable facility. This is most likely based on the extensive damage.

Additionally, they may have decided to proceed early with the major modernization that Fitz was scheduled for in two years, and this would be done at one of the two yards that built the class. This option would probably allow them to bury some of the repair cost as well. JMHO


Japan suspends probe into ACX Crystal-USS Fitzgerald collision

Questions mount over the US Navy’s reluctance to share vital evidence with Japanese investigators, despite seemingly admitting liability

August 9th, 2017 19:06 GMT

by Adam Corbett

Published in Casualties

Japan has suspended its safety investigation into the collision between the Aegis-built destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the 2,858-teu containership ACX Crystal (built 2008) after the US Navy and Coastguard declined to pass on critical evidence.

Immediately after the tragedy, which claimed seven US seafarers lives, both sides promised to share information in a joint safety probe.

But Japan has now suspended the investigation after the US failed to pass on crew testimony and evidence about the course the USS Fitzgerald travelled leading up to the collision.

As a US warship the USS Fitzgerald is not required to transmit AIS data.

Following the suspension, the Filipino second mate and officer of the watch on the ACX Crystal at the time of the incident were released without charge.

There is now a growing consensus among maritime experts that liability for the collision lies with the US Navy ship.

Pictures of the incident suggest that under collision regulations (Colregs) it is likely that the US Navy ship should have been the “give way” vessel and was at fault.

In leaks to the US press, the US Defence Agency has even gone as far as to suggest its preliminary findings put the fault firmly with the USS Fitzgerald, admitting some of the ship’s crew could have been negligent and could face military prosecution.

One US defence official reportedly said: “The way it looks now, it seems that the crew on the USS Fitzgerald is going to be at fault. They are certainly going to be held accountable in some way for their actions.”

It is unclear why the US is not ready to share its findings while seemingly admitting liability.

One suggestion is that the Fitzgerald could have had as many as six officers on watch at the time of collision and their failure to react to the ACX Crystal could prove embarrassing.

Another is that the US Navy is reluctant to release sensitive information on how the state-of-the-art radar and monitoring equipment on the destroyer failed to pick up the oncoming ACX Crystal.

Some observers claim that US Navy vessels are transiting the region with a carefree attitude to the rules of navigation.

The US evidence is critical to both Japan’s criminal probe and safety investigation.

The Philippines, under which the ACX Crystal was registered, should have led the probe, but as the accident happened in Japanese waters it has taken the lead.

The Japanese are keen to learn lessons from the incident to prevent further collisions in the Irozaki channel, which links Tokyo Bay with shipping from China and Southeast Asia.

About 400 ships use the passage per day, making it one of Japan’s busiest shipping lanes.


To a U.S. Navy bridge team, navigating through traffic is rocket science, and only utter chaos is acceptable on the bridge. They perform miracles daily underway.

I also hear a lot of “ROR are written by lawyers, so they don’t really apply” and the “when there is more then two vessels around, its a special case, so ROR don’t apply”. Take that in the worst way possible, not the understandable way, and you will have a decent idea of where the minds of the SWOs driving and steaming the ship are at.


That’s funny, sad, and scary all at once.