Seven crew members are reported to be missing after the US guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine flag container ship, ACX Crystal, early Saturday morning. Three others aboard were injured, including the commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, and were evacuated from the ship by helicopter. The collision took place at around 2:30 AM local time about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.
USS Fitzgerald, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, was struck on the starboard side near the bridge and was damaged above and below the waterline. Flooding on the ship was stabilized with the assistance from the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey and the Fitzgerald returned to the Yokosuka Naval Base, assisted by tugs, around 6 AM local time on Saturday.
ACX Crystal suffered bow damage but was able to proceed to Tokyo Bay unassisted. US and Japanese rescue teams continue the search for the missing sailors.
USS Fitzgerald is based in Yokosuka as part of the USS Ronald Reagan Strike Group, although was operating independently at the time of the collision. The Fitzgerald at 505 feet long and a displacement of 8,900 long tons is considerably smaller than the 730 foot long, 39565 DWT ACX Crystal. The destroyer, capable of speeds over 30 knots, is, however, faster and more maneuverable than the container ship.
How did the two ship’s collide? Based on photos from Japanese television showing damage to the Fitzgerald’s starboard side and the ACX Crystal‘s bow, the collision appears to have taken place in a crossing situation where the container ship would have the right away. On the other hand, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK said the ACX Crystal had made a sharp turn shortly before the collision. AIS tracking from the ACX Crystal is inconclusive.
Thanks to Irwin Bryan, Phil Leon and Alaric Bond for contributing to this post.