Why won't the Navy release the USS FITZGERALD's track?


I understand that you feel entitled to make whatever demands that you want, but the REALITY of the matter is that NO Navy in the world will publish the movements of their ships for obvious (well…to most of us) reasons of security. You’re welcome to be as outraged as you like about that, but your outrage will have zero effect on reality. That said, I think that you will find, when everything is said and done, that the Navy is going to admit to the (near-certain) multiple failures that occurred on that bridge that night, as well as those that occurred on the Crystal. And so your outrage seems rather pointless, because you’ll gleefully (sadly) get what you want, in the end.


I’ll never in this life get what I want which in this case would be many brass hats missing their respective heads!


So the location of the Fitz in the minutes before that collision must remain secret in the interest of “security”?

Yeah, right, the security of the careers of a bunch of incompetent f-ups and the moldering reputation of a failing organization.


Your misguided hyperbole (the USN’s reputation is anything but moldy, and the most powerful Navy the world has ever seen is hardly ‘failing’) indicates that you’re more interested in attacking the institution than you are at arriving at any sort of truth. As such, I’ll go ahead and bow out of this conversation with you. You’re welcome to have the last word.


Actually, I suspect you’re going to get just that.


This is a forum of professional mariners whose interactions with the USN at sea have, by in large, left it questioning the institution’s navigation and seamanship skills. This is further reinforced by incidents like this one which are all too common with the USN and a very rare occurrence with the general maritime community. It is what it is. If the most powerful navy in the world can’t get from point A to point B how capable or powerful is it? Furthermore, what should be the level of training for the stewards of a $1 billion dollar investment of the tax payer?

As far as the Fitz’s track…I’m sure the Crystal’s radar information (image and data) was documented in the VDR package. Not much the navy can do about that. Might explain why the master was allowed to return home so quickly.


All too common? If by that, you mean, what? Less than 10, 15 incidents of collisions since WW2? I think we have a different definition of ‘common’. I’m pretty sure there’d be more incidents of this amongst Merchants over the same time period. Next, your statement that the Navy can’t get from point A to B is a total non-sequitur. The Navy makes tens of thousands of successful transits ever year. To paint the entire service with the brush of this, or even a few incidents like this, is simply silly. Any more than we should paint civilian Mariners with the brush of the Costa Concordia incident. You speak of the level of training on the Fitz, but turn a blind eye to the entire Crystal’s bridge team (assuming they were even there, or awake) dropping the ball? Your bias is showing. Look, I’m a Merchant Marine myself, and I’ve had to maneuver many, many times because some dumb-assed cargo ship wasn’t doing things right, as I’m sure any of you have. And, I’m absolutely sure that the Fitz dropped the ball, and there’s going to be heads rolling for that. I’m just as certain that the Crystal ALSO did, and I’m sure heads will roll there, too. Honestly, as someone that was in the Navy for 4 years (long ago), I am absolutely baffled at how the Fitz could have allowed this to happen. The difference is, I am not allowing institutional bias to give the Crystal crew a pass. I mean seriously, have you seen the latest reports where the Crystal Master said he signaled the Fitz with LIGHT!!! I call bullshit. No civilian does that unless all other systems have failed. He’s saying that because his VDR is not going to show any attempts to contact the Fitz…because his crew screwed the pooch, too.

If you guys want to have a decent conversation about this, you need to stop employing argumentative fallacies. They’re only self-serving, and won’t get at the truth, which is probably going to be hard for EVERYONE to swallow.


The captain of the Crystal likely is referring to the hand-held “Daylight Signaling Lamp” which is required by SOLAS. It makes sense that the signal lamp would be the first choice in a close quarters situation with a non-AIS equipped vessel. From experience there’s a good chance that time spend trying to contact via VHF would be a waste of precious time.

It’s standard practice to use the Signal Lamp to warn fishing boats which likewise are sometimes not AIS equipped.


Mr. Wright, the Navy operates a comparatively small number of ships, which also get underway much less than a merchant ship, due to their two year work up cycle, port time, ect. I did go to college, but wouldn’t consider myself a smart man; however, I did learn a little about comparison methodology. A more reasonable comparison to your assertion against what every professional merchant mariner knows, that is the U.S. Navy’s seamanship and navigational skills are lacking, would be comparing them to the unlimited tonnage U.S. flagged fleet. When you count MSC with that, it surprisingly comes out to somewhat similar numbers. Now considering the work schedule of those ships, I can promise you the accident rate with the Navy is much greater, even with much more underway time on the merchant side!
We are talking a steady flow of collisions, allisions, groundings, navigational errors, close calls, etc. How often does this happen with US Flagged vessels operating almost 24/7! It IS a problem in the Navy, and for you to say those are fallacies is just incorrect. In the last 10 years there has been many problems, especially considering the RELATIVELY small number of ships and underway schedules. The number gets even smaller when you consider ships in yards, CGs getting work done for several years, etc!


[quote=“Greg_Wright, post:27, topic:45260, full:true”]

All too common? If by that, you mean, what? Less than 10, 15 incidents of collisions since WW2? I think we have a different definition of ‘common’. I’m pretty sure there’d be more incidents of this amongst Merchants over the same time period. [/quote]

Some of this may be due to a lack of reporting and better seamanship from those sailing around the Navy ships. I was on board a vessel that very nearly ran over an SSBN that decided to cross into oncoming traffic off of Port Angeles while running submerged. Fortunately my capt and the bridge team was on the ball and realized that it was indeed a periscope on what appeared to be a collision course. We avoided it and the sub merrily went on its way until the captain lodged a protest with the Navy. Nobody in the Navy was the wiser until my captain called it in. I wonder how many instances like this occur where, for whatever reason, the impacted vessel doesn’t report it?

You mean Merchant Mariner. The Merchant Marine is an organization who’s members are Merchant Mariners. A Marine is someone with a funny haircut that lives off the hand-me-downs from the Navy. A Mariner is someone who works on ships for a living.

As far as lights, I could see that happening. Imagine trying to call a ship with no identification, not showing up on AIS but sorta visible on radar. It’s night time, how well do you think you’d be able to see the numbers painted on the hull? Top it off by a fundamental difference in how the Navy describes the positional relationship of another ship to themselves vs how most commercial vessels would describe the same position. Just for fun, while all this is going on, throw in other ship traffic as well. I could completely see it making sense to try and shine a bright light at the ship you’re trying to get a hold of after trying unsuccessfully to raise them with more traditional means.


Your entire argument is predicated upon the (unknown, and unlikely) fact that the Crystal TRIED all those other methods. Unless you know something the rest of us don’t, you can’t know that. As for the Marine/Mariner thing, I mean really, semantics to further this particular discussion? SMH.


And your argument is predicated upon the assumption that the master of the Crystal is lying and didn’t try any of that. Unless you know something that the rest of us don’t, you can’t know the level of honesty of the Crystal’s master. My personal experience with the Navy is that when they drop the ball they have a habit of doing so in a spectacular fashion. Regardless, the Japanese Coast Guard very likely has a recording of the VDR and sooner or later we’ll know more. As for this forum giving the Captain and crew of the Crystal a pass? I’d recommend doing a bit more reading. You’ll find that this just isn’t true. The collective experience of this forum’s members do seem to indicate a collective failure on the part of the Navy when it comes to training their seamen how to actually sail around other vessels.

And you really think that correcting your usage of marine vs mariner was intended to further the discussion? You read into things too much.


You’ll note that I’m not defending the Navy in this incident. Believe me, I am flabbergasted at how they dropped the ball. No, my entire point was that it seemed to me that most posters were blasting the Navy while giving the Crystal a pass. Anyway, the truth is – and I think you’ll agree – is that there’s just so much yet to be known, that really, all any of this is is speculation. Thankfully, we’re all posting about it on an internet forum, and not responding to a casualty like this (at the moment). I don’t know if you’re an American Mariner, but I’ll assume that you are, and if so, you’re aware of how the USCG regulates our industry…AND Naval incidents like this. And the Navy does NOT get to play the security card with the CG. You and I will never see the data from the Fitz, but the CG decidedly will, and while we all love to hate those guys come inspection times, I think most would agree that they’re professional as a rule. The truth will out, and as I’ve said repeatedly, I don’t think ANYONE is going to like it.


I have to say that I thought the same thing when I first saw this. No danger signal? The VDR would certainly have picked this up on the mics. Sounds dodgy. You want to get another vessel cutting across your bow’s attention, switch to the forward whistle and blast the danger signal. When that doesn’t get a response, resort to the light. No sound signals at all doesn’t pass the smell test.


If some of us are not being as harsh on the Crystal it’s because of this. All evidence so far has pointed that she fulfilled most of her duties to avoid collision; being to hold her course and speed, then go hard to starboard when if apeared that the action of the give way vessel alone wouldn’t prevent collision. going on the evidence based assumption that it was a crossing situation. Should more facts come out that reveal a different picture, I will change my view. Along with this view that the crystal was the stand on vessel, that means that the Fitz failed to carry out her duties to pass well astern or ahead of the Crystal. This gross negligence caused, not just damage, but fatalities amongst her crew. Wouldn’t you be harsh on the Fitz’s leadership that could cause such an event, through both a culture and history of ignoring the practices of good seamanship, and in this incident a complete failure of the bridge watch team.


I’ve had that feeling for a long time in this case. Reading ALL the posts, I can readily understand the difficulty in making a VHF call to an unknown ship (i.e, no AIS) and not even sure what type ship it is. But a lookout on the Fitz is much more likely to hear and be alerted by the DANGER signal, then by a flashing light that may have been well abaft the beam.

As noted a few posts earlier, a bridge lookout failure on both ships I think.


All your comments understood and no real issue with them.

I will, however, wait to see an AIS track, or other evidence, that shows the “hard to starboard” action by Crystal prior to the collision, as stated by the Captain. The abrupt 90* starboard line on the AIS seems to be as a result of the collision, possibly with last second rudder applied, rather than the track of an in extremis vessel taking appropriate action.

Again, not defending Fitz. No way she should have allowed this to happen.


Doesn’t seem likely that the master of the Crystal would lie about this seeing how it is almost surely on the VDR. Of course it would be standard protocol to sound the danger signal but we shouldn’t be surprised if when an emergency suddenly arises the crew does not react 100% correctly. One big concern during a hard turn at full sea speed in heavy traffic would be either striking or being hit by another vessel. In hindsight the focus is on the single vessel but at the time they may have been other concerns.


How exactly would the VDR pick up them signaling with light? This is not a capability I’m aware of. Can you honestly imagine not doing the progression of VHF, Horn, Maneuver, THEN, maybe, Light? The crew wants the biggest chance for survival – light isn’t going to give that when you have other options available.


Navy is equipped with AIS, its up to the CO if and when he wants to transmit. But we always at least listen passively. With CO’s I’ve sailed with probably about 50% of the time we transmitted AIS, but when we do we don’t include information like next port of call, etc.

Also, its not hard to call up the warship on VHF. I had a CO once when I was a deck cadet break out a signaling lamp, but it was only after we had tried everything else AND we did it while there was still plenty of time for us to maneuver and avoid the contact ourselves.