Enlarge / Tugboats from Singapore assist the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) as it steers toward Changi Naval Base, Republic of Singapore, following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on August 21. Ten sailors were missing after the collision.
In the darkness of early morning on August 21, the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker in the Strait of Malacca off Singapore. Ten sailors are believed to have lost their lives in the McCain collision. When added to the seven who died in the June 17 collision of the USS Fitzgerald with the container ship ACX Crystal, this has been the deadliest year at sea for the US Navy’s surface fleet since the 1989 turret explosion aboard USS Iowa (in which 47 sailors perished).
The McCain‘s collision was the fourth this year between a naval vessel and a merchant ship—the third involving a ship of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet. (The other collision involved a Russian intelligence collection ship near the Bosporus Strait in Turkey.) There hasn’t been a string of collisions like this since the 1950s.
Collisions are one of the biggest nightmares of those who go to sea. Cmdr. W.B. Hayer famously posted a brass plaque on the bridge of the destroyer USS Buck misquoting Thucydides: “A collision at sea can ruin your entire day” (this quote later found its way to Navy training posters). But few can look at the photos of Berthing 2 or the captain’s stateroom aboard the USS Fitzgerald in the Navy’s recent supplemental report on its collision and laugh.
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