US Navy relieves senior officers involved in deadly boxship collision

The US Navy has revealed it has removed the two senior officers and the senior enlisted sailor on a US warship that almost sank off the coast of Japan in June after it was struck by a containership operated by Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK).

Seven American sailors died when water flooded into the destroyer USS Fitzgerald following the collision.

“The collision was avoidable and both ships demonstrated poor seamanship. Within Fitzgerald, flawed watch stander teamwork and inadequate leadership contributed to the collision,” the US Seventh Fleet said in a media release.

Commander Bryce Benson was relieved “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to lead”, the Seventh Fleet said.

Commander Sean Babbitt and Master Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin “contributed to the lack of watch stander preparedness and readiness that was evident in the events leading up to the collision”, it said.

The Philippine master of the NYK-chartered ACX Crystal, which struck the starboard side of the US Navy destroyer, 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.

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.


  1. One report which I have read states the the USS Fitzgerald was operating in a ” darkened ship” condition. It is notable that there is no AIS track for the ship.

    If this report means that the USS Fitzgerald was trying to be “stealthy”, her Commanding Officer and his Executive Officer did not choose the best place to do it.

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