Last week on the 16th of June, the USS Fitzgerald, a United States Navy vessel, part of the USS Ronald Reagan Strike Group, was involved in a collision with the ACX Crystal container ship off the coast of Japan. The crash resulted in the USS Fitzgerald suffering massive damage and the loss of seven sailors. The events taking place after the incident have left more questions than answers, with many people wondering how this could have happened? Was this an intentional terrorist attack, or simply an accident that happened due to a comedy of errors on both sides?
As reports and information were being revealed on social media, many were claiming, according to available maritime records, that the ACX Crystal executed a sharp turn 25 minutes before the collision. Large news outlets such as the BBC were referencing the below graph and other available records to substantiate this claim.
However, the crew of the ACX Crystal is claiming the turn in question took place after the collision and not before. Some have suggested this turn could be the result of the ship being on autopilot, but frankly, I’m not buying this story.
“There is a discrepancy in the timeline, reported UK Daily Mail, with the company insisting the collision happened earlier than the Navy said it did. That’s critical because tracking sites show a sharp turn, but the earlier time frame would mean the ACX Crystal turned after the collision to see what happened, not before it. UK Daily Mail quoted one expert who said the ship may have been operating on autopilot” (McBride, 2017, para. 18).
Though maritime rules state vessels are required to yield to other vessels that are on their starboard (Right Side), possibly placing blame on the crew of the USS Fitzgerald (this is where the USS Fitzgerald sustained the damage), this does not explain the sudden turn executed by the ACX Crystal, and why her crew did not attempt to reverse or change course prior to the collision. Both ships of this caliber are equipped with technology and warning systems to prevent incidents like this from happening, and it wasn’t as if the ships were in close proximity to each other until the time of the collision. Furthermore, both ships should have had sufficient crew on duty to monitor their ships respective course, even if they were both on autopilot.
Taking a look at both ships the ACX Crystal outweighs the USS Fitzgerald by 20,000 tons. Surely, if the crew of the USS Fitzgerald knew the ACX Crystal was approaching, and they likely did, I’m sure they tried to get out of the way, send a message to warn the ACX Crystal, and took other evasive and defensive maneuvers.
All of these questions and the events afterward are leaving some to speculate this was an intentional terrorist attack, and the US Navy and others are being tight-lipped about the investigation. It is certain the crew of the USS Fitzgerald had the crew on duty on the bridge, so they must have known another ship was approaching them, and surely they would have tried to turn out of the way or warn the ACX Crystal. This being the case, either someone dropped the ball or the actual events which took place prior to and after the collision are purposely being distorted.
What is known about the ACX Crystal is, it is chartered by the Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK), owned by Dainichi-Invest Corporation, and registered in the Philippines. Little else is known at this time about the crew or the Captain of the ACX Crystal.
Given current tensions with North Korea, Iran, and ISIS, it’s possible this was an intentional terrorist attack, and in actuality the crew of the USS Fitzgerald were aware of the ACX Crystal approaching, and tried to get out of the way, explaining why the USS Fitzgerald sustained damage on the starboard side. I have every confidence that the crew of the USS Fitzgerald is highly competent and attempted to avoid a collision. At best, this incident was the result of an incompetent crew of the ACX Crystal, and those responsible should be held accountable. Whatever the motive or reason was, Americans need to be vigilant in making sure the truth is revealed.
Ensuring the truth is brought forth and the responsible parties are held accountable is how we can honor the lives of the seven US Sailors who died. They deserve nothing less.