Coral Sea

Coral Sea

Monday, June 26, 2017

Really? Containership Captain Says Collision with Destroyer "Not his fault"

Well, this Reuters report will get a lot of play, but my "Spidey sense" is pinging - and so I am not taking the captain of the container ship's word as gospel. But you can read it yourself at  Reuters Exclusive: U.S. warship stayed on deadly collision course despite warning - container ship captain . Here are things that make me wonder:
In the first detailed account from one of those directly involved, the cargo ship's captain said the ACX Crystal had signaled with flashing lights after the Fitzgerald "suddenly" steamed on to a course to cross its path. The container ship steered hard to starboard (right) to avoid the warship, but hit the Fitzgerald 10 minutes later at 1:30 a.m., according to a copy of Captain Ronald Advincula's report to Japanese ship owner Dainichi Investment Corporation that was seen by Reuters.
Really? Fitzgerald took the hit on the starboard side, just forward of amdiships. How does a ship in a
U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Peter Burghart/Released
"hard" right turn (in theory turning away from the destroyer) hit the starboard side of the ship it was trying to avoid. It just seems odd unless the Fitzgerald accelerated into the path of the container ship while it was in a turn. And 10 minutes into the turn the collision occurs? I really would have to do a manuevering board to figure out how this is possible. But if the container ship was doing 20 knots, that's 2000 yards every 3 minutes or about 7000 yards (~3.5 nautical miles) in 10 minutes. That's a lot of distance in which a collision could have been avoided.
Another focus of the probes has been the length of time it took the ACX Crystal to report the collision. The JCG says it was first notified at 2:25 a.m., nearly an hour after the accident. In his report, the ACX Crystal's captain said there was "confusion" on his ship's bridge, and that it turned around and returned to the collision site after continuing for 6 nautical miles (11 km).
Really? I can understand 'confusion" and I understand big ships take a while to manuever, but 12,000 yards after a collision in which you were involved you finally come about? What was your speed? In my experience the prudent thing for the container ship to do would have been to start slowing during that alleged 10 minutes after the Fitzgerald instead of continuing at speed.

Was there anyone on the bridge of the container ship at the time of the collision? There seems to be an argument that "Iron Mike" ("auto pilot") was driving the containership. See Freighter Was On Autopilot When It Hit U.S. Destroyer :
Tracking data broadcast from the Crystal as part of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) shows the ship changed course by 90 degrees to the right and slightly reduced its speed between around 1:32 a.m. and 1:34 a.m. After that time, the data shows the ship turned to the left and resumed a northeastern coarse along its original track line.

Private naval analyst Steffan Watkins said the course data indicates the ship was running on autopilot. "The ACX Crystal powered out of the deviation it performed at 1:30, which was likely the impact with the USS Fitzgerald, pushing it off course while trying to free itself from being hung on the bow below the waterline," Watkins told the Free Beacon.

The ship then continued to sail on for another 15 minutes, increasing speed before eventually reducing speed and turning around. "This shows the autopilot was engaged because nobody would power out of an accident with another ship and keep sailing back on course. It’s unthinkable," he added.

Watkins said the fact that the merchant ship hit something and did not radio the coast guard for almost 30 minutes also indicates no one was on the bridge at the time of the collision.

By 2:00 a.m., the freighter had turned around and headed back to the earlier position, according to the tracking data.
I'm sure the many investigations will sort all this out, but an apparently self-serving statement to the media from the capatain of the containership is not surprising at this point - not surprising - just not to be taken at face value without more evidence.

In a similar vein, Mr. Watkin's analysis should not be accepted as writ either without more.

Further, as investigations continue, the Fitzgerald's actions will be examined.

Wait for the final reports.

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