USS J McCain / Alnic MC collision near Singapore


Like I said in another thread just now:
Why not use a telephone with a load speaker?
Simple, understandable and commonly used by most other Maritime Nations.
But then again; why make it simple when you can do it the American way??

That’s basically what an internal net is, with a speaker being both in CIC and the bridge. You just use Push To Talk(either a foot pedal or a button on the phone) and are talking to the other stations.

And most all of the comms internally are done via plain language to avoid foul-ups.


Thanks for the clarification


… as may be heard on the USS Porter audio! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Shockingly I’ve not heard the Porter audio, and sadly we’ve just pulled our pier lines in and gone to SATCOMs so youtube won’t really load :frowning:

I know there was a push in recent years to use plain language on the internal nets.


Here is an audio only version of the USS Porter pilothouse audio (3.7MB mp3)


This is a forum for professionals; I think most of us appreciate technical accuracy. Thanks for clarification on comms circuit names.


Appreciate the link!

Biggest issue I hear is honestly the CO. If he felt that the OOD making mistakes on that level, he should have just taken direct command of the bridge and issued orders himself directly. I honestly think if the OOD had just been allowed to steer the ship like he wanted(coming back to starboard), this never happens. At least then you don’t have a Conn or Helm trying to make sense of 3-4 sources of orders, like what the actual fuck was happening there? I’ve never heard it that bad except one time under Capt. Graf, and in that case our Helmsman just told the CO to fuck off and took the safe action himself under the direction of the harbor pilot.


I agree, some of the confusion on that audio is lack of situational awareness when another ship is sighted unexpectedly but most of the confusing verbal exchange is the disagreement between the CO and the OOD, a problem that could have been resolved had the CO taken the conn,


When I was trained as a bridge watch officer (JOOW, JOOD, OOD) in the early 70’s, it was a clear policy that if the CO gave any helm or lee helm order, then the CO had the conn. The conning officer and/or the OOD would announce “on the bridge, the Captain has the conn”, and it got logged immediately. No change in that when I left my last ship in 1987.


I was in the Navy for 23 years and spent 11 years assigned to ships. I’ve heard that recording about 10 times, and it still can’t get over the discussions on the bridge and the amount of time between helm and engine orders and their execution.

I get sick each time I hear it.


Its not that bad. On ‘small boys’, they are only going to have a couple of those circuits. And you don’t need to know which one is which, they are separate boxes located in specific places. Such as the bridge will only have the Command/Captain’s circuit and maybe the Damage control circuit. On two of the ships I was on, the 21MC was on the starboard side of the bridge close to the CO’s chair and the DC circuit was in the back port side where there was pull-down plates/diagrams of the ship used as a backup to Damage Control Central. This is what they look like; just the push-buttons changed based on what circuit it is.

(available for sale on e-bay)


“We’ve Ben hit on the port side”


No change in that when I left my last ship in 1987.

It’s still like that to this day, I’ve never seen a ship where this wasn’t the enforced policy, at least on paper.

It almost seems like, listening to the audio, that the CO is specifically avoiding doing this to not have to fire his OOD. Should have just taken control and been done with it.

I think I did hear him give an order or two directly, but no one said “Captain has the Conn.”

A cluster all the way around.


Not from my experience.


Exactly opposite in my book for how it should be. The Captain takes the Conn when he or she states that they are taking the Conn.


By virtue of them giving an order to the helm, they have automatically taken the conn. It’s automatic as soon as the words leave their mouth.


Yes, same on merchant ships, the announcement (CO has the Conn) is just so there is no confusion, the switch happens when the CO starts giving commands.

That’s a small detail, the far larger problem was that the CO had no idea what was going on.


Yes, same on merchant ships, the announcement (CO has the Conn) is just so there is no confusion, the switch happens when the CO starts giving commands.

Was replying to the rmurphy guy, who said that the CO only takes the conn when they state they do.

Didn’t do the quoting because at-sea internet is a bit shit and it wasn’t working at that time, and forgot to just do the > to block quote.

But I 100% agree with you.


On a merchant ship at sea there is only one watch keeping officer on the bridge any time, but if she/he needs assistance the Master’s cabin is just below. In restricted waters with plenty traffic around and/or approaching port, the Master normally is present on the bridge. If a pilot is aboard you may have a helmsman doing the actual steering ordered by the pilot with Master & Co watching. No magic. If it is pitch dark outside, it can get very interesting. In the engine room there is also watch keeper that easily can ask for assistance. If you are not happy you can always call the ship owner (on a good ship).

Reasons why USN war ships lose so many sailors in collisions are multiple.

  1. The scantlings of hull plates and stiffeners on USN ships are reduced to a minimum to save weight and probably <50% of a merchant ship’s. In a collision the merchant ship always wins, while the USN ship is ripped open like a sardine tin.
  2. The sailors’ accommodation on USN ships 2017 is 1900’s style, cramped below waterline with unsafe escapes and not as per merchant ships. If a USN hull compartment with sailors’ accommodation is flooded due to collision, it seems ~30% of the sailors present in them will drown like rats.
  3. USN ships are only there to show the flag anyway. Nobody in the real world really gives a damn what happens aboard them. Allowing it to be known would probably jeopardize state secrets.



I just joined this forum, though have read about both the accidents.

I am a merchant navy master, with long years at sea / ashore and I have authored a guide on preventing collisions.

In my years of experience and many surveys, the knowledge of the rules by way of correct interpretation is lacking grossly along with application of ordinary practice of seamen or seamanship.

Too much over reliance on electronics is another problem.

Recently got off a VLGC where I was master.

If the basics are known and practiced well, collisions can be avoided.

Naval vessels are more prone to accidents, sometimes because of lack of experience and unfortunately simulators are not the best substitute. This applies to all Navies perhaps, am aware of Singapore, Indian and US Naval ships collisions in Malacca straits.

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