News:Asia

Bodies found of seven missing from US warship and NYK containership collision

The bodies of seven US sailors from the warship USS Fitzgerald following a collision with the NYK-chartered containers ACX Crystal off Japan early on Saturday morning.

The guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with the Philippines-flag 2,900 teu, 2008-built ACX Crystal at 2-30am on 17 June, 56 nm southwest of Yokosuka in Japan, leaving seven sailors from the warship missing.

“As search and rescue crews gained access to the spaces that were damaged during the collision this morning, the missing Sailors were located in the flooded berthing compartments,” Commander US 7th Fleet said in a statement on Sunday.

Speaking at press briefing US Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin said: “The ship suffered severe damage rapidly flooding 3 large compartments that included 1 machinery room and 2 berthing areas for 116 crew. The Commanding Officer's (CO) cabin was also directly hit, trapping the CO inside.

“Heroic efforts prevented the flooding from catastrophically spreading which could have caused the ship to founder or sink. It could have been much worse.”

The Philippines-flagged containership suffered relatively minor damage in the collision and docked in Tokyo Port on Sunday morning and following port operations is expected to sail for Yokohama arriving at 8am on 19 June.

“Our deep thoughts and concerns go out to the families and friends of those who have so tragically lost their lives on the USS Fitzgerald and our hopes for a speedy recovery for those injured and in hospital following the collision,” NYK said.

The cause of the collision remains unknown, however, data from Marine Traffic shows the containership making a sharp u-turn not long before the collision. The course plot of the warship is not available. The tragic incident is to be investigated by both the US and Japan.

““The US Coast Guard is to take the lead on the marine casualty investigation,” Adm. Aucion said.

“We recognise that there are other organisations who have equities in this incident, and we expect they will conduct their own separate investigations. More information on any further investigations will be forthcoming,” he added.

NYK said: “NYK and the shipowner are fully cooperating with an investigation being conducted by the Japan Coast Guard. More information will be provided when known.”

Posted 18 June 2017

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Marcus Hand

Editor, Seatrade Maritime News