USS J McCain / Alnic MC collision near Singapore


Of course. I’m dying to see it too, even though I haven’t any professional skin in this game.


Or their track lines show them making 1,800 kts through Outer Mongolia, or some such thing.


There may well be some systematic problems within the USN organisation, but there are two vessels involved and both have an obligation to keep a lookout, and that is a problem with modern merchantmen with enclosed wheelhouses. Coupled with an almost total reliance on electronic data, there is almost no chance of anyone seeing a darkened warship on a dark night.


0642 wouldn’t be total darkness and it’s debatable the merchant would have been solely relying on electronic data. Having been on a number of ships with enclosed wheelhouses I have never found keeping a adequate lookout problematic. YMMV.

A steering casualty would make a lot of sense in this particular incident but we will have to wait for the facts.


I agree, A ship approaching Singapore is going to be using mostly visual means for collision avoidance. Radar and AIS would be useful to verify what’s being seen and to ensure nothing gets missed but the delay in ARPA/AIS is too long for reliable short range colision avoidance when that many ships are in such close proximity.



USN Navy vessels with their lights on are perfectly visible from a modern wheel house. If anyone actually looks out the window.
AIS was not designed as a collision avoidance system. AIS is irrelevant to the keeping of a proper look out. It certainly does not replace a proper lookout.
Most if not all ships should have a dedicated lookout posted in this area. And probably an additional lookout on standby should hand steering be required.
Reliance on AIS for collision avoidance will eventually lead to collisions.
Actually Navy vessel’s, with their dark profile. I find it’s a hell of a lot easier to see their aspect, than it is with a F 'ing cruise ship and all its light pollution.

Even so. Collisions in the Vicinity of Singapore are not uncommon. This one is Unusual it involves the USN.

I admit I find the reports on here of the way the USN does things rather odd. I am from a different world.


Check out AIS of the tanker

Couldn’t this explain it?


It was 0642 Japan time, 0542 Local time. Yep lets wait.


I guess so. FWIW I have, over the course of my career, shared channels and waterways with numerous USN vessels at all hours of the day and night and have not found them difficult to spot provided they are exhibiting the proper nav lights and visibility was not restricted. This includes ships with enclosed bridges. YMMV


Navy statement and AIS corroborate the collision occurred at 0624 JST, or 0524 SST. Sunrise in Singapore about 7 a.m. so it was still dark.

And as per Fitzgerald Line of Duty report:

“FITZGERALD was operating in a standard condition for deployed ships steaming at night, including being at “darkened ship,” meaning that all exterior lighting was off except for the navigation lights, and all interior lighting was switched to red instead of white light.”

I’m all for not speculating but we still don’t know what happened with Fitzgerald now do we?


All times TZ 8 - Singapore time

Collision 20170821 at 05:24
Sun altitude = -24°, far below the begin of the astronomical twilight
No moon over horizon

At Horsburgh LH, Pedra Branca Rock >>>
05:51 astronomical twilight
06:15 nautical twilight
06:40 civil twilight
07:01 sun rise

06:21 moon rise, only a 1% crescent


I read the earlier post by MarinePilot about the appearance of loss of steering, or effective loss of ship control, during close overtaking situations, but didn’t think it applied in this situation. But perhaps it might.

I spent a lot of time on USN ships and an actual loss of steering is extremely rare. Redundant control systems, redundant hydraulic systems, very fast ABTs for power, etc. The reported “lost steering” by JSM seemed odd, particularly with it coming back so readily/quickly.

Conjecture is just that, but looking carefully at the AIS history the Team Oslo passed the Alnic MC shortly before the collision. What if JSM was moving slowly, perhaps timing an arrival at the pilot pick up, and was overtaken close aboard on the stbd side by Team Oslo. JSM might have experienced what the helmsman felt as a loss of steering, and veered to port in front of Alnic MC. Perhaps JSM yawed initially to stbd and the helmsman overcorrected with port rudder. Don’t know if USN ships have autopilot, if it would have been used in this case, or how it might have reacted in this situation. I do have a lot of experience with UNREP, close aboard (120-160ft), at 12-13kts, so well aware of the hydrodynamic forces and effects as you come up alongside the oiler, and as you leave alongside.

Again, conjecture, but possibly more likely than a true loss of steering by JSM.


Good point.


AIS is a very good aid, true enough. Based on the Reuters report (statements by the Crystals Captain), it appears the Crystal was aware of a vessel with risk of collision, otherwise they would not have used visual signals to try and contact the Fitsgerald.

Very true here, I think they played it too close to the vest for too long, leading many, myself included, to meet just about anything they publish now with at least a bit of skepticism.

I myself consider vhf to be part of my tool bag to help reduce the risk of collision, but this scenario could lead one to make passing arrangements with the wrong vessel and contribute to a technology assisted collision. If somebody is transmitting AIS information and there is risk of collision, one large benefit of using AIS is the ability to positively identify the other vessel if it’s deemed a bridge-to-bridge radio conversation is warranted to help avoid a collision.

Probably two people up there, one officer and one on the helm watching the autopilot, but unfortunately there is potential for other duties to distract you from keeping a sharp watch.

Barring hazards to navigation, channels, and fairways certainly.

I think that’s why many here are wanting more details on the report from the Fitzgerald to see what was identified. All I’ve seen so far are the generic reasons for sacking the Fitz command team and now the safety stand-down order.


I’ll qualify this with, they would also need to offer regular USMM rotations. Three to four months on then roughly equal time home on paid vacation. I wouldn’t take the job to be gone half the year every year AND have a day job on a Navy base when off the ship. At least, not for CWO pay…


Yeah, W-4 base pay with >14yrs is about $72K, going up with longevity to a max of $93K. Plus tax free allowances of $3K for food and $30-36K for housing (with dependents, varies by location), plus exchange, commissary and medical. The retirement benefit is nice, and you would have to put away a LOT every month to create it on your own. But alas, no regular USMM rotation.


Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the three-star commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan, will be relieved of command


Accountability in action. It should help the new commander should he be ready to make some good changes.


Yes, that’s exactly what I tried to suggest in my previous posting
In this Youtube video posted by Mikey, also from a Singapore strait collision, the smaller ship is the overtaking ship, and sails too close to the ship being overtaken. (Overtaking ship to starboard, overtaken ship to port). When the stern of the overtaking ship is abeam of the bows of the bigger ship being overtaken, the very substantial hydrodynamic “cushion” there causes the faster, overtaking ship to veer sharply to port, thereby loosing speed and being rammed in her port quarter by the starboard side of the bows of the overtaken ship.

Bearing in mind that the Alnic MC was sailing with less than 10 knots, and bearing in mind the significantly higher cruising speed of the John S. McCain, and bearing in mind the geographical position of the accident, it is not unlikely that this was an overtaking situation, regulated by Colreg #13

Rule 13 (Overtaking)
(a) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Rules of Part B, Sections I and II, any vessel overtaking any other shall keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken.

(b) A vessel shall be deemed to be overtaking when coming up with another vessel from a direction more than 22.5° abaft her beam, that is, in such a position with reference to the vessel she is overtaking, that at night she would be able to see only the sternlight of that vessel but neither of her sidelights.

© When a vessel is in any doubt as to whether she is overtaking another, she shall assume that this is the case and act accordingly.

(d) Any subsequent alteration of the bearing between the two vessels shall not make the overtaking vessel a crossing vessel within the meaning of these Rules or relieve her of the duty of keeping clear of the overtaken vessel until she is finally past and clear.


Yes, what is being written here is indeed conjecture. Many will argue against jumping to conclusions, and even more so; apportioning blame, before it is made clear what actually happened.
But such conjecture may also have some value. It will probably take months/years before the final Accident Report is published. And it would be too stupid IF this accident was caused by hydrodynamic interaction in an overtaking situation, and that it happened again while waiting for the Accident Report…
The conjecture by osnsir that it was a third ship (Team Oslo) that caused the hydrodynamic forces that made John S. McCain “loose her steering”, is not entirely unthinkable. However, most such collisions are caused by hydrodynamic forces between the two colliding ships only… I consequently find my conjecture somewhat more probable: That the much faster John S. McCain was the overtaking ship, and “lost her steering” due to her stern interacting with the hydrodynamic “cushion” that was present around the bows of the bigger tanker being overtaken.
Again, conjectures only!