The U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant vessel off the east coast of Singapore early Monday morning. 10 sailors are currently missing, with an international search and rescue effort underway. According to a Navy official, the McCain reportedly lost steering control prior to the collision, but has since regained it.
A U.S. Navy press release states that the John S. McCain was underway east of the Straits of Malacca while transiting to what they refer to as a “routine” port visit in Singapore. At 6:24 a.m. Japanese standard time, a commercial vessel, the Alnic MC, collided with the McCain on its port side, aft – or the rear portion of its left side, looking ahead.
The Alnic MC is a Liberia flagged commercial oil and chemical tanker. A photograph posted on Twitter by the Malaysian navy shows that the tanker punctured the hull of the much smaller John S. McCain, which coincides with early reports that the crew of the McCain were working to control flooding inside the vessel. The Alnic MC is a 600-foot-long vessel, and is listed as weighing 30,000 tons, as compared to the 505 foot long, 9,000 ton McCain.
An international search and rescue effort is underway, including helicopters and Marine Corps Osprey aircraft from the amphibious assault ship USS America, as well as tug boats out of Singapore, the Singapore Navy ship RSS Gallant, Singapore navy helicopters and a Police Coast Guard vessel. In addition to the 10 missing sailors, five more were listed as injured by the Navy’s press release, though no details have been released as to the extent of their injuries.
Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, addressed the incident via Twitter: “Our first priority is determining the safety of the ship and crew. As more information is learned, we will share it.”
The USS John S. McCain was reportedly able to stem the flooding, and continued from the scene toward port under its own power.
The McCain is commanded by CDR Alfredo J. Sanchez, a 19 year Navy veteran and University of Puerto Rico graduate. Although he has served on a number of combat vessels, the McCain is Sanchez’s first command. The vessel took part in a FONOP voyage last week near an artificial island China built to help bolster its growing claims of sovereignty inside the South China Sea. The ship is named for current Senator John McCain’s father and grandfather, both of whom achieved the rank of admiral during their own naval service.
This is the second collision between a U.S. Navy warship and a commercial vessel in two months, and the fourth incident this year. The USS Fitzgerald collided with the merchant vessel ACX Crystal in June, and the ensuing investigation saw the Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, and Command Master Chief relieved of their command, along with a slew of non-judicial and administrative punishments for other officers and enlisted personnel.
In May, the USS Lake Champlain, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser collided with a commercial fishing vessel in the Sea of Japan, and in February, another Ticonderoga-class cruiser, the USS Antietam, ran aground off the coast of Japan.
Image courtesy of Twitter