The one thing we can say for certain is that we do not have all the facts surrounding the collision between the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the Philippine container ship ACX Crystal . The collision nearly sank the destroyer, killed seven sailors and injured three more, including the ship’s captain. Of course, facts, whether we have them or we don’t, do nothing to inhibit the conspiracy theorists. Conspiracy theories are already developing about the recent collision.
The “American Thinker” blog expresses their concerns in almost apocalyptic terms:
The USS Fitzgerald, an anti-ballistic missile destroyer that was part of the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group, will no longer be ready to defend the carrier and other ships from missile attacks launched from North Korea, should push come to shove in the current confrontation with the rogue regime on the threshold of the capability to attack New York, Los Angeles, and our power grid with nuclear missiles. This is an incident that could affect the outcome of a nuclear confrontation of historic moment.
Videos on Youtube are also now claiming that the collision was an act of terrorism by North Korea.
Is there any basis for these claims? No, but a delay in reporting the collision does explain some of the crazier ideas being tossed around.
AIS (Automatic Identification System) is an automatic tracking system used for collision avoidance on ships. The container ship ACX Crystal uses AIS, whereas the USS Fitzgerald as a Naval vessel does not. We have the track of the ACX Crystal on the early morning of the collision but we cannot see where the USS Fitzgerald was in relation to the container ship. No doubt this will be revealed in the multiple ongoing investigations into the collision.
Where the confusion appears to come from is that, according to the Japanese authorities, the collision took place around 1:30 AM, not an hour later as originally reported. The ACX Crystal only reported the collision at around 2:20 AM. No one is sure why there was an hour delay in the reporting. There is also no record of when the USS Fitzgerald reported the incident or to whom.
At just about 1:30 AM, the ACX Crystal AIS track, shows the ship, which had been holding a roughly steady course and speed, make a sharp turn to the south and then continue generally easterly before looping back toward the collision site.
The “proof” that the container ship intentionally rammed the Fitzgerald, as presented in the You Tube videos, is based on the originally reported collision time of around 2:20-2:30 AM, when the ACX Crystal is turning back toward the collision site. It could appear to the conspiratorially minded that that the container ship is turning back toward the destroyer possibly to ram her. Of course, according to MaritineTraffic.com, the container ship was averaging about 15 knots while the destroyer is capable of well over 30 knots, so it is unclear whether an attempt to ram would be successful assuming anyone on the bridge of the Fitzgerald was paying attention.
Conspiracy theories aside, the larger issue, which will be addressed by the various investigations, is how a high-tech destroyer, capable of shooting small incoming missiles out of the air, failed to avoid the slower less maneuverable 700′ long container ship. Until we know more of the facts, there are many questions left to be answered.