Conspiracy Theories Spring Up Around the USS Fitzgerald — ACX Crystal Collision

Graphic: NYTimes

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.

They go to to claim that there was no “collision.” “The truth is that the ACX Crystal, a ship with somewhat murky provenance, rammed into the Fitzgerald with calamitous results.”

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, 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.  


This entry was posted in Current, Lore of the Sea and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Conspiracy Theories Spring Up Around the USS Fitzgerald — ACX Crystal Collision

  1. stephen says:

    Has Trump said anything about this , or is he to busy

  2. Martin Buinicki says:

    I would expect that the Commander will lose his command, and leave sea duty.

  3. Hi
    We have been doing some research on the head of commercial operations for SeaQuest, George Kynigos. You can read what we found at

  4. Irwin Bryan says:

    Clearly “Ignorance is bliss” is a pre-internet expression!

  5. Wharfcat says:

    First of all, a lot of questions need to be answered before this theory becomes “plausible”.
    That being said, consider the following;
    Assume that Fitzgerald was “loitering” in the area to join up with other units, or for whatever reason. Heading in one direction about 10kts. The midwatch has been set, manned by the OOD, COW, Radar Operator, Sonar Supervisor…maybe a few others. The watch has completed turnover and has now settled into a midnight “routine”. Maybe PMS, maintenance is underway (so many possibilities).
    Lets pick a time….at 0100 a large container ship slips past the Fitzgerald, not far astern heading into the mouth of the entrance leading to Tokyo Bay. Lets say she (ACX Crystal) is heading about 040, roughly NE.
    Generally the characteristics of “merchants” is to maintain cruising speed and steady course from point A to point B for best fuel efficiency, probably between 18 and 23kts.
    Lets say that the Bridge is unmanned, at least one report states this. Some where directly below the bridge in a obscure compartment, 3 individuals who have the wiring schematics to that part of the ship, quietly but quickly take the cover off of a junction box and attach clips to the exact wires that send data to and from the ships navigational computer. One individual connects the leads to a laptop computer and hacks into the ships computer. A program is already set and begins to run. Meanwhile, another individual has quickly run a portable Satellite link from the laptop to the outside and is now linked with VTS Tokyo. They now know the position, heading and speed of Fitzpatrick from “Traffic Controls” radar.
    The software program then takes over and the ACX Crystal begins to turn to the Port. It is now in an “Overlead” LOS with Fitzgerald. The program adjusts course to then give the ACX a near zero degree bearing rate from Fitzgerald’s perspective. Range Rate now shows Closing however. Since these individuals are tapped into the Comms as well they can hear it Fitzgerald calls and inquires as to ACX’s intentions.
    Meanwhile on board Fitzgerald, the watches are distracted temporarily by a robust discussion of who will play in the next Super Bowl (or whatever the distraction could be) The Sonar display shows a near zero bearing rate on ACX (as it should), same with the Radar operator. The shift in range rate from Opening to Closing is missed.
    The range continues to close with no apparent alertment from the watchstanders of Fitzgerald until it is too late.
    This scenario could have happened in a number of ways. Crazy? Inconceivable? Maybe. But THE most important question remains….why did ACX Crystal suddenly reverse course, totally without explanation and plow into Fitzgerald at Full Bell with nobody manning the bridge? I could be wrong but there seemed to be a report that the container ship was operating at that time with NO visible running lights.
    Can you hack an ONSTAR system in a car and disrupt speed and direction from outside the vehicle….yes.
    I’m not saying this is what happened. I do not know the particulars to as the course, speed etc. of the vessels. I truly hope that there is a plausible explanation for all of this, and I hope we can learn the truth. I just, have….questions.
    From a retired sailor.

  6. Phil says:

    Early on news reports said the radio room was hit, no comms.
    Other news reports keep saying we hit the cargo ship.

  7. Willy says:

    I am presuming the accident happened when the ships were searching for the naval seaman later found in a engine compartment. The Fitzgerald would have been doing a gridlike search. Yet the question remains. Why is it, and american tactical ship out fitted with all its electronics cant detect a ship that is 4 times larger than its own mass?

  8. Andy Hall says:

    I’m betting my lunch money that the “Loving and Concerned Navy Mother” letter is a deliberate fraud.

  9. David Randall says:

    They were not looking for the sailor who was found in the engine room. That was a different ship entirely.

  10. flowerplough says:

    A stadium-sized, laden cargo ship, accidentally or intentionally, rammed a Navy guided missile destroyer. Can’t happen, couldn’t have happened. It’s like a toothless narwhale gumming a great white to death. Never will happen.

  11. Lots of nautically uneducated comments, political remarks and even a wrong ship !! Strongly suggest one reads CAPT. John Konrads’s article from gCaptain for an experienced, nautically educated explanation of this violation of the Rules of the Road/COLREGS.

  12. Susan says:

    What if the computer system on one or both of the ships was hacked so that what appeared on the radar/sonar screens was all clear?

  13. Dan says:

    It had to be a hack to have that kind of precision. I’m just surprised about the watchmen at night on both ships. What about the running lights on the Cargo ship. I agree with the hack and the coverup which is beginning. How do you explain this to the taxpayers?

  14. Rick Spilman says:

    Human error is a far more reasonable explanation than a fantasy about hackers.

  15. Donald Woods says:

    I have to say that hacking though plausible lacks the panache of good conspiracy theory. I set aside the obvious, Aliens, and think someone has created a cloaking device. Until the investigations are made public that is a good reason for a cover-up.