News incorrectly says “US Destroyer rammed Philippine Cargo ship”. The cargo ship has damage to its port bow, the destroyer has damage to the starboard amidship. Clearly, the cargo ship did the ramming. It came from behind on the starboard side and hit the Destroyer at an angle, glancing off its port bow and evidently continued forward and separated from the Navy ship.
The incident is off Japan. The merchant was en route to Tokyo. At around 2:30 AM the ACX Crystal reported a collision with the US Destroyer. 2 sailors were injured, including the captain. The captain was flown off the ship. 7 sailors are missing. The Crystal, home ported in Manila and under a Filipino flag, was making 11.4 knots and headed for port, it did not stay around. Damage to it is small compared to the Destroyer.
The question is, how did the merchant ship get in so close to a destroyer? Avoiding the collision would have been a matter of the destroyer turning to port themselves, based on the angle of the collision. Questions will be answered in the coming days as authorities sort through the matter. The Japanese company that employs the Filipino container ship is cooperating, and the Japanese Coast Guard us taking the lead in the investigation.
The Japanese Coast Guard were on scene quickly because this incident appears to have occurred within a 56 miles of the coast, near the entrance to Tokyo harbor. The container ship was en route to Tokyo from another Japanese port.
Because the destroyer was operating in a high traffic area, with dozens of vessels close by, the captain would have been on the bridge at the time of the ramming by the cargo vessel. While the destroyer does have an Aegis system, it would have been operating a navigation radar at this location. The destroyer would have had extra hands on watch looking out for traffic. According to the law of the sea, the container ship would have the right of way, and based on the location of the impact, one of the two vessels was passing on the wrong side. The container ship is slower and far less maneuverable than the destroyer, and it appears it was traveling a set route, however the investigation will sort out if the container vessel was where it was supposed to be. But even if the container ship was not where it was supposed to be, the open question remains: why didn’t the destroyer see this lumbering ship in time to get out of the way?
The seven missing sailors are worrisome, because if they were thrown overboard and have not yet been recovered that could be bad news. When sailors are missing, you can bet that means they went overboard, unless they are trapped in a compartment and cannot get out. That is the best scenario, assuming the compartment was above the water line. Damage to the vessel was above and below the waterline and the ship is fighting flooding. As the ship is entering port at the Yokosuka Naval Base it will be possible to access area cut off due to the damage.
The ship was under its own limited power, but owing to the damage was unable to turn more than 5 knots, it took over 10 hours to get back to port. Going faster would have increased flooding and the pumps would not be able to keep up. She is operating under command of her XO.
Her C.O., CDR Bryce Benson, just took the con in May of this year. He has been airlifted off the ship. The ship specializes in anti-missile defense and was likely deployed to counter the North Koream missile threat.