US Defense Secretary James Mattis says a broad investigation into US naval operations will be conducted after warship the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker near Singapore.
The McCain docked at Singapore’s naval base last Monday with “significant damage” to its hull after an early morning collision with the oil tanker Alnic MC as vessels from several nations search for 10 missing US sailors.
The collision east of Singapore between the guided-missile destroyer and the 183-metre Alnic MC was the second involving a ship from the US Navy’s 7th fleet in the Pacific in two months.
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson has called for an “operational pause” worldwide “to make sure that we are taking all appropriate immediate actions to ensure safe and effective operations around the world”.
Admiral Richardson said the review would be conducted on “a very tight timeline” and added: “We need to get to the bottom of this.”
The McCain’s sister ship, the Fitzgerald, almost sank off the coast of Japan after colliding with a Philippine container ship on June 17.
The bodies of seven US sailors were found in a flooded berthing area after that collision.
The US Navy said last week it had removed the two senior officers and the senior enlisted sailor on the Fitzgerald following an investigation into that collision.
The accidents have come at a tense time.
This month the John S. McCain sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built by China in the South China Sea, the latest operation to counter what the US sees as China’s efforts to control the waters.
North Korea last week threatened to fire ballistic missiles towards the US Pacific territory of Guam after US President Donald Trump said he would unleash “fire and fury” if Pyongyang threatened the US.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2017
The navy said significant damage to the hull of John S. McCain had resulted in flooding to compartments, including crew berthing, machinery, and communications rooms.
However, it said crew members were able to stop the flooding and the ship made its way to Singapore’s Changi Naval Base by Monday afternoon under its own power.
Singaporean, Malaysian and Indonesian ships and aircraft had joined the search for the missing sailors, the US Navy said.
A crew member on the Alnic MC told Reuters no oil spilled from the Liberian-flagged, 183-metre tanker, which was carrying almost 12,000 tonnes of fuel oil from Taiwan to Singapore.