USS Fitzgerald Collision: NTSB Investigation Report Highlights Navy Failures,


In the 15 years of running gCaptain no story we ever published received more hate mail than this one:

Where I said “ Under COLREGS, whenever two ships touch each other, both ships are to blame. For this reason I am 99.9% confident the USS Fitzgerald will be found at fault… and so will the ACX Crystal.”

All of the hate mail was from navy guys saying I was wrong, the fitzt was NOT at fault! I even had a few Admirals call me livid.

But, of course, not one person has called me today to apologize. :rofl:


I think most of the mariners that follow this site had a friggin clue and agreed with your analysis. Some may be retired, many are not. But the multiple accidents by our beloved Navy scream for change in the way bridge officers are trained in our small world.


has a navy ship ever been involved in an accident and it wasnt their fault anywhere in the world?

HMAS Melbourne?

USS Cole?

hit another navy ship in the same exercise…

wasnt moving

That wasn’t part of your criteria!


The two collisions that HMAS MELBOURNE was involved in were subject to exhaustive analysis and neither were found to be MELBOURNE’s fault, although it didn’t help the captain in the second incident where the USN initially refused to accept fault.
If the USN has watchstanders, or admirals that don’t understand rule 15 they should be confined to a bath with a plastic duck until they do.


The Navy runs on ignorance, arrogance, and incredible suction power. I’d be surprised if they didn’t blindly and vehemently defend their fuck ups.


USS Vincennes
" yes we shot down all enemy aircraft that approached us in the no fly zone"
“ok very good but where are you”

“we dont know”
“I think you just shot down a civilian aircraft is a legal fly zone”

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The problem with the Navy (all Navies) is that they can’t just go from A to B without pissballing about. If this one, the one off Singapore around the same time, and the Norwegian navy one in 2018 were being operated in the same manner as a merchant vessel then these incidents could, arguably, have been avoided.


I sailed for a Merchant Captain who was previously a SWO in the US Navy and he explained that as the OOD, if you have to deviate from the track at all, meaning outside of the allowable cross track error, which is something stupid like 500 meters, then you must call the captain.

Which to me explains why those damn idiots are calling to make passage arrangements in open seas, with a 3 nm CPA, and no other traffic. Or when they’re escorting us through the SOH and they ask me to return to the track that puts me on a collision course.

Yeah, thanks for the “guidance” but I think I’m going to avoid the tanker dead ahead.

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Twice! Both times MELBOURNE was found not to be at fault. But the navy (disgracefully) nevertheless sacked both of her captains who would have undoubtedly made flag rank.

The rules that applied to MELBOURNE’s collision with USS FRANK E. EVANS were unequivocally navy ones, not COLREGS.

NEVER turn towards or across the bows of an aircraft carrier (within a defined exclusion zone of one mile - I think - ahead from each beam).

MELBOURNE was the guide and all other warships take station relative to the guide. Ships changing station - as in this case - keep clear of ships in formation. The admiral orders the entire formation or individual ships in his formation to evade other shipping ie to accord with the COLREGS.

My first post was in reference to the two collisions suffered by HMAS MELBOURNE. I was not referencing the collision regulations to this incident merely pointing out the the Australian ship was not at fault at any time. I was the OOW for many hours of plane guard with her and British and US carriers many years ago.
My mention of Rule 15 was in regard to USS Fitzgerald and ASX Crystal. They are sailing on the same damm waters as we do and they should scrupulously obey the rules when not engaged in a exercise within an exercise area.

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I concur entirely. Sorry for any misunderstanding on my part. The FITZ was utterly in the wrong and I can’t understand why John above would have received ANY grumbles from anyone in the navy. I also had many years OOW as plane guard.

My naval experience at sea was that we almost invariably avoided merchant ships by early, bold course changes regardless of our right of way. In this way we showed our intentions and didn’t chatter about it.

For many years - you would have had the same I presume - we had no VHF whatsoever and had no voice communication with merchant ships. We used flashing light and they mostly replied. Those were the days.

I was more insistent on maintaining my right of way when commanding a (naval) sailing ship - pre AIS. I had one or two VHF disagreements with some merchant ships. Some asked what red over green lights meant. One harbour pilot insisted he was constrained by draught having exited any such channels to sea. I was later told by a fellow pilot (listening in) he needed just such a stiff response to obey the rules and stop arguing about it. Worst of all, I was asked by a naval ship whether I was going to get the hell out of his way. “No.”

Nice to reminisce.

I joined E.F LARSON [DD-830] for the WESTPAC cruise immediately following the EVANS as an RD3. [LARSON is the can who’s EVANS stern section was made up to in many pictures.]

Those RD’s who were aboard during the incident scared the crap out of me with their stories, as did the other members of the crew - and the education of both what-to-do, and WHAT-NOT-TO-DO when steaming with a carrier. That operational knowledge, and damage control knowledge was beneficial years later when I was sailing Master.

As we all know, however, institutional knowledge is a perishable skill-set.


That should tell the Navy something about how they are instructing their officers and navigators with regards to truly understanding COLREGs vs knowing just the basics to get by.

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