Navy chief orders probe into Pacific fleet after collisions

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Navy chief orders probe into Pacific fleet after collisions
Navy chief orders probe into Pacific fleet after collisions


SINGAPORE (AP) – The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet as vessels from several nations searched Southeast Asian waters for 10 U.S. sailors missing after an early morning collision between the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker.

It was the second major collision in the last two months involving the Navy’s 7th Fleet. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.

Navy Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, will call for a pause in operations and seek a deeper look at how the Navy trains and certifies its forces that are operating around Japan, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.

Damage to the portside is visible as the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) steers towards Changi naval base in Singapore following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. The USS John S. McCain was docked at Singapore's naval base with "significant damage" to its hull after an early morning collision with the Alnic MC as vessels from several nations searched Monday for missing U.S. sailors. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Fulton/U.S. Navy photo via AP)

Damage to the portside is visible as the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) steers towards Changi naval base in Singapore following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. The USS John S. McCain was docked at Singapore's naval base with "significant damage" to its hull after an early morning collision with the Alnic MC as vessels from several nations searched Monday for missing U.S. sailors. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Fulton/U.S. Navy photo via AP)

Damage to the portside is visible as the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) steers towards Changi naval base in Singapore following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. The USS John S. McCain was docked at Singapore’s naval base with “significant damage” to its hull after an early morning collision with the Alnic MC as vessels from several nations searched Monday for missing U.S. sailors. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Fulton/U.S. Navy photo via AP)

“He has put together a broader inquiry to look into these incidents,” Mattis said, referring to the two recent collisions and other accidents at sea. Mattis spoke to reporters in Amman, Jordan, where he is traveling.

Vessels and aircraft from the U.S., Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia are searching for the missing sailors. Four other sailors were evacuated by a Singaporean navy helicopter to a hospital in the city-state for treatment of non-life threatening injuries, the Navy said. A fifth was taken to the hospital by ambulance after the destroyer arrived in Singapore under its own power, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said.

The McCain had been heading to Singapore on a routine port visit after conducting a sensitive freedom-of-navigation operation last week by sailing near one of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea. The collision east of Singapore between the guided missile destroyer and the 183-meter (600-foot) Alnic MC ripped a gaping hole in the destroyer’s hull.

The Navy’s 7th Fleet said “significant damage” to the McCain’s hull resulted in the flooding of adjacent compartments including crew berths, machinery and communications rooms. A damage control response prevented further flooding, it said.

The destroyer was damaged on its port side aft, or left rear, in the 5:24 a.m. collision about 4.5 nautical miles (8.3 kilometers) from Malaysia’s coast but was able to sail on to Singapore’s naval base. Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency said the area is at the start of a designated sea lane for ships sailing into the Singapore Strait, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

A photo tweeted by Malaysian navy chief Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin showed a large rupture in the McCain’s side near the waterline. Janes, a defense industry publication, estimated the hull breach was 3 meters (10 feet) wide.

Another U.S. naval vessel, the amphibious assault ship USS America, arrived in Singapore and was helping with damage control efforts on the McCain and with the search for the missing sailors, the Navy’s 7th Fleet said. It also will feed and house sailors from the stricken ship.

One of the injured sailors, Operations Specialist 2nd Class Navin Ramdhun, posted a Facebook message telling family and friends he was OK and awaiting surgery for an arm injury.

He told The Associated Press in a message that he couldn’t say what happened. “I was actually sleeping at that time. Not entirely sure.”

The Singapore government said no crew were injured on the Liberian-flagged Alnic, which sustained damage to a compartment at the front of the ship some 7 meters (23 feet) above its waterline. There were no reports of a chemical or oil spill.

Several safety violations were recorded for the tanker at its last port inspection in July.

The Navy review will look at the fleet’s performance including personnel, navigation capabilities, maintenance, equipment, surface warfare training, munitions, certifications and how sailors move through their careers.

“The chief of naval operations’ broader inquiry will look at all related accidents, incidents at sea” involving ships of the 7th Fleet, Mattis said. “This is a broader look at what is happening.”

Richardson wants to ensure there aren’t bigger problems in the fleet that may be masked by the high pace of operations there and budget uncertainties within the Defense Department, according to a Navy official.

The official said that beyond the tragedy of the lost lives and the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on repairs, Richardson wants to be sure that the Navy is able to meet the maritime demands, particularly in the Pacific region.

Richardson has directed Adm. Phil Davidson, head of the Navy’s Fleet Forces, to lead the investigation. Davidson will assemble a panel of officers to help with the investigation and will have the full use of the Navy’s office of the inspector general as well as the safety center.

Malaysian Maritime Director Indera Abu Bakar points the damage of USS John S. McCain shown on a screen during a press conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. The U.S. Navy said the USS John S. McCain arrived at Singapore's naval base with "significant damage" to its hull after a collision early Monday between it and an oil tanker east of Singapore. A number of U.S. sailors are missing after the collision, the second accident involving a ship from the Navy's 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. (AP Photo/Daniel Chan)

Malaysian Maritime Director Indera Abu Bakar points the damage of USS John S. McCain shown on a screen during a press conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. The U.S. Navy said the USS John S. McCain arrived at Singapore's naval base with "significant damage" to its hull after a collision early Monday between it and an oil tanker east of Singapore. A number of U.S. sailors are missing after the collision, the second accident involving a ship from the Navy's 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. (AP Photo/Daniel Chan)

Malaysian Maritime Director Indera Abu Bakar points the damage of USS John S. McCain shown on a screen during a press conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. The U.S. Navy said the USS John S. McCain arrived at Singapore’s naval base with “significant damage” to its hull after a collision early Monday between it and an oil tanker east of Singapore. A number of U.S. sailors are missing after the collision, the second accident involving a ship from the Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. (AP Photo/Daniel Chan)

The USS John S. McCain is seen docked at Changi naval base after its accident on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 in Singapore. The USS John S. McCain was docked at Singapore's naval base with "significant damage" to its hull (blocked by berth) after an early morning collision with the oil tanker Alnic MC as vessels from several nations searched Monday for missing U.S. sailors. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

The USS John S. McCain is seen docked at Changi naval base after its accident on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 in Singapore. The USS John S. McCain was docked at Singapore's naval base with "significant damage" to its hull (blocked by berth) after an early morning collision with the oil tanker Alnic MC as vessels from several nations searched Monday for missing U.S. sailors. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

The USS John S. McCain is seen docked at Changi naval base after its accident on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 in Singapore. The USS John S. McCain was docked at Singapore’s naval base with “significant damage” to its hull (blocked by berth) after an early morning collision with the oil tanker Alnic MC as vessels from several nations searched Monday for missing U.S. sailors. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

The USS John S. McCain is seen docked at Changi naval base after its accident on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 in Singapore. The USS John S. McCain was docked at Singapore's naval base with "significant damage" to its hull (blocked by berth) after an early morning collision with the oil tanker Alnic MC as vessels from several nations searched Monday for missing U.S. sailors. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

The USS John S. McCain is seen docked at Changi naval base after its accident on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 in Singapore. The USS John S. McCain was docked at Singapore's naval base with "significant damage" to its hull (blocked by berth) after an early morning collision with the oil tanker Alnic MC as vessels from several nations searched Monday for missing U.S. sailors. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

The USS John S. McCain is seen docked at Changi naval base after its accident on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 in Singapore. The USS John S. McCain was docked at Singapore’s naval base with “significant damage” to its hull (blocked by berth) after an early morning collision with the oil tanker Alnic MC as vessels from several nations searched Monday for missing U.S. sailors. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

The USS John S. McCain is seen docked at Changi naval base after its accident on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 in Singapore. The USS John S. McCain was docked at Singapore's naval base with "significant damage" to its hull (blocked by berth) after an early morning collision with the oil tanker Alnic MC as vessels from several nations searched Monday for missing U.S. sailors. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

The USS John S. McCain is seen docked at Changi naval base after its accident on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 in Singapore. The USS John S. McCain was docked at Singapore's naval base with "significant damage" to its hull (blocked by berth) after an early morning collision with the oil tanker Alnic MC as vessels from several nations searched Monday for missing U.S. sailors. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

The USS John S. McCain is seen docked at Changi naval base after its accident on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 in Singapore. The USS John S. McCain was docked at Singapore’s naval base with “significant damage” to its hull (blocked by berth) after an early morning collision with the oil tanker Alnic MC as vessels from several nations searched Monday for missing U.S. sailors. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

In this photo released by the Royal Malaysian Navy,  the U.S guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen after a collision, off Johor, Malaysia, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. A number of U.S. sailors were missing after a collision between the USS John S. McCain and a tanker early Monday east of Singapore, the second accident involving a ship from the Navy's 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. (Royal Malaysian Navy via AP)

In this photo released by the Royal Malaysian Navy,  the U.S guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen after a collision, off Johor, Malaysia, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. A number of U.S. sailors were missing after a collision between the USS John S. McCain and a tanker early Monday east of Singapore, the second accident involving a ship from the Navy's 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. (Royal Malaysian Navy via AP)

In this photo released by the Royal Malaysian Navy, the U.S guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen after a collision, off Johor, Malaysia, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. A number of U.S. sailors were missing after a collision between the USS John S. McCain and a tanker early Monday east of Singapore, the second accident involving a ship from the Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. (Royal Malaysian Navy via AP)

This photo released by the Royal Malaysian Navy shows the oil and chemical tanker Alnic MC is seen after a collision off Johor, Malaysia, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. A number of U.S. sailors were missing after a collision between the USS John S. McCain and the tanker early Monday east of Singapore, the second accident involving a ship from the Navy's 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. (Royal Malaysian Navy via AP)

This photo released by the Royal Malaysian Navy shows the oil and chemical tanker Alnic MC is seen after a collision off Johor, Malaysia, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. A number of U.S. sailors were missing after a collision between the USS John S. McCain and the tanker early Monday east of Singapore, the second accident involving a ship from the Navy's 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. (Royal Malaysian Navy via AP)

This photo released by the Royal Malaysian Navy shows the oil and chemical tanker Alnic MC is seen after a collision off Johor, Malaysia, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. A number of U.S. sailors were missing after a collision between the USS John S. McCain and the tanker early Monday east of Singapore, the second accident involving a ship from the Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. (Royal Malaysian Navy via AP)

In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain conducts a patrol in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. (James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP)

In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain conducts a patrol in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. (James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP)

In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain conducts a patrol in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. (James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP)

FILE - In this July 14, 1961, file photo, then Lt. John S. McCain III, left, and his parents, Rear Adm. John S. McCain Jr. and Roberta Wright McCain take part in the ceremony to commission McCain Field, the U.S. Navy training base in Meridian, Miss., named in honor of Adm. John S. McCain, in photo at top, respectively grandfather and father to the two McCains. Ten U.S. sailors are missing after a collision between the USS John S. McCain and a tanker early Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, east of Singapore, the second accident involving a ship from the Navy's 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. The 154-meter (505-foot) McCain is named after U.S. Sen. John McCain's father and grandfather, who were both U.S. admirals. (AP Photo/File)

FILE - In this July 14, 1961, file photo, then Lt. John S. McCain III, left, and his parents, Rear Adm. John S. McCain Jr. and Roberta Wright McCain take part in the ceremony to commission McCain Field, the U.S. Navy training base in Meridian, Miss., named in honor of Adm. John S. McCain, in photo at top, respectively grandfather and father to the two McCains. Ten U.S. sailors are missing after a collision between the USS John S. McCain and a tanker early Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, east of Singapore, the second accident involving a ship from the Navy's 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. The 154-meter (505-foot) McCain is named after U.S. Sen. John McCain's father and grandfather, who were both U.S. admirals. (AP Photo/File)

FILE – In this July 14, 1961, file photo, then Lt. John S. McCain III, left, and his parents, Rear Adm. John S. McCain Jr. and Roberta Wright McCain take part in the ceremony to commission McCain Field, the U.S. Navy training base in Meridian, Miss., named in honor of Adm. John S. McCain, in photo at top, respectively grandfather and father to the two McCains. Ten U.S. sailors are missing after a collision between the USS John S. McCain and a tanker early Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, east of Singapore, the second accident involving a ship from the Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. The 154-meter (505-foot) McCain is named after U.S. Sen. John McCain’s father and grandfather, who were both U.S. admirals. (AP Photo/File)

Malaysian Maritime Director Indera Abu Bakar speaks during a press conference about a collision of the USS John S. McCain in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. The U.S. Navy said the USS John S. McCain arrived at Singapore's naval base with "significant damage" to its hull after a collision early Monday between it and an oil tanker east of Singapore. A number of U.S. sailors are missing after the collision, the second accident involving a ship from the Navy's 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. (AP Photo/Daniel Chan)

Malaysian Maritime Director Indera Abu Bakar speaks during a press conference about a collision of the USS John S. McCain in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. The U.S. Navy said the USS John S. McCain arrived at Singapore's naval base with "significant damage" to its hull after a collision early Monday between it and an oil tanker east of Singapore. A number of U.S. sailors are missing after the collision, the second accident involving a ship from the Navy's 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. (AP Photo/Daniel Chan)

Malaysian Maritime Director Indera Abu Bakar speaks during a press conference about a collision of the USS John S. McCain in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. The U.S. Navy said the USS John S. McCain arrived at Singapore’s naval base with “significant damage” to its hull after a collision early Monday between it and an oil tanker east of Singapore. A number of U.S. sailors are missing after the collision, the second accident involving a ship from the Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. (AP Photo/Daniel Chan)

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