The US Navy has removed the two senior officers and the senior enlisted sailor on the USS Fitzgerald warship that almost sank off the coast of Japan in June after a collision with the ACX Crystal containership.
The Seventh Fleet said that Commander Bryce Benson was relieved “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to lead” and that Commander Sean Babbitt and Master Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin “contributed to the lack of watch stander preparedness and readiness that was evident in the events leading up to the collision”.
It added that “flawed watch stander teamwork and inadequate leadership” contributed to the collision which caused the deaths of seven crew on board the destroyer.
Several US and Japanese investigations are still under way into how the Fitzgerald and the much larger ACX Crystal collided in clear weather south of Tokyo Bay.
However, the US Navy punishments are the first public admission that mistakes by the crew contributed to what it described as an “avoidable” collision which demonstrated “poor seamanship” on both sides.
Picture A5: Lounge in Berthing 2 – View from lounge facing egress
The report also detailed the initial impact.
It stated: “The impact of Crystal's bulbous bow below the waterline punctured the side of Fitzgerald, creating a hole measuring approximately 13ft by 17ft , spanning the second and third decks below the main deck.
“The hole allowed water to flow directly into Auxiliary Machinery Room 1 and the Berthing 2 starboard access trunk.
“The force of impact from Crystal’s bulbous bow and resulting flood of water pushed the non-water tight door between the starboard access trunk and Berthing 2 inward.
“The wall supporting this door pulled away from the ceiling and bent to a near-90 degree angle.
“As a result, nothing separated Berthing 2 from the onrushing sea, allowing a great volume of water to enter Berthing 2 very quickly.”