US Navy to launch fleet-wide probe as search for 10 missing sailors goes on
August 22 2017 09:51 AM
U.S Navy's USS America, which is supporting ongoing search for missing crew members of USS John McCa
US Navy's USS America, which is supporting ongoing search for missing crew members of USS John McCain

Reuters/Singapore

* Planes, ships, divers search for 10 missing US sailors
* Collision is 4th major Pacific fleet accident this year
* US Navy to review operations of fleet worldwide
* CNN says collision may have been caused by loss of steering
* Warship currently docked in Singapore for repairs, assessment

Ships, aircraft and divers from an international search-and-rescue operation were still looking for 10 missing US sailors on Tuesday after a collision between a US warship and a merchant vessel in waters near Singapore and Malaysia.

The USS John S. McCain and the tanker Alnic MC collided early on Monday while the guided-missile destroyer was nearing Singapore for a routine port call. The collision tore a hole in the warship's port side at the waterline, flooding compartments that included a crew sleeping area.

The collision - the fourth major accident in the US Pacific fleet this year - prompted a fleet-wide investigation and plans for temporary halts in operations to focus on safety.

A CNN report on Tuesday, citing unidentified US Navy officials, said early indications suggested the collision was caused by a steering malfunction as the warship approached the Strait of Malacca. A US Navy spokesman contacted by Reuters could not immediately comment on the report.

The US Navy said in a statement late on Monday that aircraft from the amphibious assault ship the USS America, which was in port at Singapore's Changi Naval Base, would continue searching for the missing sailors.

They joined aircraft and vessels from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia already searching in the area.

Damage control efforts on board the USS John S. McCain were focused on draining water from the ship and restoring auxiliary systems, the statement said. Divers had started assessing the warship's damaged hull, it said.

HOLE IN HULL

A public affairs officer for the US Seventh Fleet told Reuters the USS John S. McCain remained pierside at Changi Naval Base and that a repair plan would be put in place after assessments were complete.

Admiral Scott Swift, who serves as the Commander of the US Pacific Fleet, was in Kuala Lumpur on Monday and was scheduled to arrive in Singapore on Tuesday.

Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority said it had deployed 250 personnel for the search-and-rescue effort, which had continued through the night. Video footage and still pictures showed that the collision had ripped a wide hole in the warship's aft port side.

Five sailors were also injured in the accident, although the US Navy said none of those injuries was life-threatening.

On Monday, US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said there were no indications so far the collision was intentional or the result of cyber intrusion or sabotage.

‘But review will consider all possibilities,’ he said on Twitter.

Richardson said he was asking his fleet commanders worldwide for a one-to-two-day, staggered ‘operational pause’ to discuss action to ensure safe and effective operations. He envisaged this could begin within a week.

He also said a comprehensive review would examine the training of US forces deployed to Japan ‘to make sure we are doing everything we can to make them ready for operations and warfighting’. The US Seventh Fleet is headquartered in Japan.

This would include looking at ‘operational tempo, trends in personnel, materiel, maintenance and equipment,’ Richardson said.

The John S. McCain is named for the father and grandfather of US Republican Senator John McCain, who were both admirals. McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is undergoing treatment for brain cancer.



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