Boxship master lays the blame for deadly collision on USS Fitzgerald officers

Boxship master lays the blame for deadly collision on USS Fitzgerald officers

The Philippine master of the NYK-chartered ACX Crystal, which struck the starboard side of the US Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald earlier this month, has claimed that the warship did not respond to warning signals or take evasive action. The captain, Ronald Advincula, filed his report to Japanese shipowner Dainichi Investment Corporation, which newswire Reuters was able to view.

The collision in Japanese waters resulted in the deaths of seven American navy personnel and badly damaged the warship.

Advincula reported that his ship had signalled with flashing lights after the Fitzgerald “suddenly” steamed on to a course to cross its path.

The boxship steered hard to starboard to avoid the warship, but hit the Fitzgerald 10 minutes later at 1:30 am.

Multiple investigations are underway, by authorities in Japan, the US and the Philippines.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.

Related Posts

21 Comments

  1. Leroy Whorms.
    June 27, 2017 at 11:10 am

    The warship was hit on her starboard side. The rules of the road are you pass approaching vessels by mutual agreement port to port or starboard to starboard. If the warship was displaying its starboard light wby would the boxship be goi g hard to starboard? Seems like a pretty easy case to determine fault here.

    1. Richard Santomauro
      June 27, 2017 at 5:34 pm

      In a collision situation high seas rules state that both vessel should turn to the right to avoid barring VHF comms. ACX Crystal’s port running light was showing to the USS FITZGERALD. This means STOP/TURN RIGHT/AVOID or EVEN BACK DOWN to allow CRYSTAL to pass. A tragic incident that was totally avoidable. Some U.S. Navy Officers are likely to face court martial.

      1. PWA
        June 27, 2017 at 10:47 pm

        I’m afraid you correct.

    2. PWA
      June 27, 2017 at 6:51 pm

      I think the rule that applies is the rule of crossing ships. the port to port or starboard to starboard is for head on meeting. the Fitz had the responsibility to avoid the collision. the boxship had the right-of-way because it was to the right of the Fritz. The boxship should have sounded three long blast on the horn when the possibility of collision becomes too great. then both ships are required to maneuver to avoid the collision. Been there …done that. Once in almost this exact spot.

      1. Ed Enos
        June 27, 2017 at 9:58 pm

        I believe you mean five short, the danger signal.

        1. PWA
          June 27, 2017 at 10:40 pm

          Yes you are right. Nice piece of sound signal info here http://www.boaterexam.com/navigationrules/counding-off.aspx
          Had to use the signal once crossing the Pacific , merchant ship headed straight for the flotilla with no indication it was aware. Made the sound signal in a few mins out walks a guy rubbing his eyes. slight change of course by him and we avoided a real mess.

  2. Mike Boyle
    June 27, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    Mutual agreement? I don’t recall ever reading that in the COLREGS.

  3. Karl Frederickson
    June 27, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Both ships traveling same direction (easterly) ..Freighter overtakes or is overtaken from behind..freighter port side to Navy starboard …..who turned into whom is the question….and why……

    1. Ed Enos
      June 27, 2017 at 10:00 pm

      Could you please provide a link or info on where it says (credibly) that the FITZ was heading on parallel course as CRYSTAL? I keep reading this everywhere but have seen nothing myself first hand that this was the case?

      1. PWA
        June 28, 2017 at 2:22 am

        right …looks like crossing lanes

  4. John
    June 27, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    No mate. Nothing in the rules says anything about “mutual agreement”. Don’t talk rubbish

  5. Bill McCandless
    June 27, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    If ACX Crystal would have turned port instead of starboard, this incident most likely would have been avoided if what he is saying is true. Other questions are why would he not contact Fitzgerald on Bridge to Bridge radio and sound their ship’s whistle? In another article I read, he states the he made the hard right and then sailed ten minutes before the collision took place. AIS data shows the hard right turn thing place at 1;30 AM, another ten minutes would place the collision at 1:40 AM even though his crew all say that it occurred at 1:30 AM. Then why turn and sail towards port for six miles before turning around when you know what you hit and why wait almost an hour to report the collision? Too many holes in his story for me to believe him.

    1. Ed Enos
      June 27, 2017 at 10:02 pm

      The timing is all screwed up because the CRYSTAL and Japan Coast Guard are maintaining one time frame and Navy is insisting on using another. Smart. Real smart. And confusing. I expect nothing else from the Navy

  6. PWA
    June 27, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    This does not appear to be a passing or overtaking situation. It looks like the ships were crossing and the Fitz was the ship required to avoid the collision. She would have seen a port (red) light from the boxship and should have either turned hard to starboard and passed astern or accelerated and crossed ahead (not the best path).
    I do not understand the boxship flashing lights…the required action by the burdened ship is to sound the horn … 3 long blasts. been there done that.

    1. Ed Enos
      June 27, 2017 at 10:03 pm

      3 long blasts? What signal is that?

  7. Ron
    June 27, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    When on collosion course rules at sea dictate both ships go to starboard enough to avoid collision.Starboard light seen on ship means a ship is crossing your course from port.

  8. Andrew Craig-Bennett
    June 27, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    I think that the rights and wrongs of this collisionare most unlikely to be decided by a Judge, anywhere.

    The owners and underwriters of the ACX Crystal have a fairly modest repair bill, and will be asking themselves whether the cost and trouble of litigation is worth while.

    The US Navy have seven deaths and a very big repair bill and will be asking themselves whether it is worth while to bring proceedings against the ACX Crystal since her owners will probably be able to limit liability and will certainly seek discovery of documents from the USN and will cross examine the officers of the USS Fitzgerald with zeal. The USN will no doubt be thinking that proceedings in a US court will be bad enough but proceedings in a foreign court are not to be thought about.

    So, move along, please, nothing to see, here.

    1. Ed Enos
      June 27, 2017 at 10:10 pm

      Agree Andrew.

      The Navy does not need another embarrassing event such as this. Regardless of blame. They have a long list of other issues to deal with, let alone CRYSTAL Owners and liability. The sooner this thing is quietly put to bed, the better the Admirals at the Pentagon will feel.

      I truly hope and pray that the Admirals will take a serious look and re-evaluate what they are teaching and doing on the bridges of their ships. As an ex-US Navy Reservists and pilot aboard many navy ships (both foreign and US) and have accomplished many observation rides aboard US Navy ships while riding as an observer with Pearl Harbor Pilots for over a year, I can assure you the Navy bridge atmosphere and environment has room for much improvement.

      Sadly, they don’t think so. The traditionalists and purists will cling to their death to hang on to what they have always done in the past… “Because that’s how we have always done it.”

  9. Jim Green
    June 27, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    Once risk of collision was imminent both ships are responsible for maneuvering to avoid collision, this is normally done by coming right.

    1. Ernst
      June 28, 2017 at 8:40 pm

      Stop harping about the exact time. When in a tigght spot you first look at the clock?
      Crystal went hard to starboard, probably best course to take. But now she is crossing traffic and stopping dead in the water is equally bad. So: ‘resume course and speed’ while we assess the damage, start the pumps, ready the life raft et, etc. Who is available for a radio chat? These are skeleton crews. Only once your ship is secure can you return to render assistance.,

  10. Patrick
    June 28, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    Vessels are required to have their AIS on. The warship did not, which is illegal & a major contributor to the collision. Neither vessel could identify the other. All the Crystal could say was ‘vessel on my port side, we are in danger of collision please give way’. In a busy shipping lane that could apply to any vessel within 20 miles; it becomes meaningless. The Fitzgerald was clearly in the wrong & the box boat was to large to take rapid evasive action. Also there is an unwritten Rule of the Road: might is right. If you’re on bicycle you don’t argue with a truck.