The US warship John McCain has collided with the merchant vessel Alnic MC in waters east of Singapore at 5:30 a.m. local time on August 21. The destroyer, which carries computer-guided missiles, was about to make a routine port call. Ten sailors so far have been deemed lost, and the government of Singapore, with help from that of the United States, has been exhausting all efforts to find them.
While this incident, fortunately, will not significantly damage the relationship between the two countries, it does raise questions on why US warships seem to keep experiencing this kind of encounter. Prior to this incident, another US conflict-designed vessel had crashed into a Philippine ship along the waters of Japan.
The report by Channel News Asia added that five more American sailors suffered non-life-threatening injuries, and four of them were flown by helicopter to Singaporean medical centers for treatment. Meanwhile, the Singaporean merchant vessel did not suffer any losses in their personnel. None of them were also injured.
This is the second major collision that has happened to an American military vessel in a matter of months. Only last June, the USS Fitzgerald rammed into the ACX Crystal, a container ship registered with the Philippine government, in Tokyo Bay. What made the incident more puzzling was that it happened under very clear—and presumably safe— weather conditions. As reported by Reuters, the crew members of the ACX Crystal noticed the movement of the Fitzgerald toward them, indicating inevitable and unmistakable collision. They signaled the Fitzgerald to stop, but to no avail. The ACX Crystal had the right of way under maritime laws, but the US destroyer did not halt or change course. Seven US sailors died as a result.
There had been other casualties since both the US and Japanese governments conducted their own investigations. The Diplomat adds that the collision was “avoidable” and that both ships exhibited “poor seamanship.” The US Navy also relieved the Captain, the Chief Executive Officer, and other senior leaders for “loss of confidence”, pending further investigation.
The USS John McCain will undergo similar investigation into the future. Regardless of the results, both incidents do appear to be a wake-up call to the US Navy, to start plugging the leaks in their system and personnel, or risk perhaps more damaging incidents in the future.
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