Uh, What Happened Here? (Fitzgerald Collision)
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2017-06-18 12:55 by Karl Denninger
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Uh, What Happened Here? (Fitzgerald Collision)
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As you've probably heard one of our destroyers suffered an impact with a freighter near Japan.

From where the impact occurred it at first-blush appears that the commander of our destroyer is in serious trouble.  For those unfamiliar with nautical rules of the road if you get hit on the starboard side you probably are at fault because you're the "give way" vessel and the other is stand-on.

That is, the other vessel is supposed to maintain course and speed, you are supposed to alter course to remain clear.

Further, there are two other considerations -- first, that if you're in doubt as to whether the risk of collision exists you're required to assume it does, and second, you're required to maintain an adequate lookout (using whatever you have, including people, radar, etc) so as to be able to assess the safety of proceeding on your current course and speed and, if you can't, you must reduce speed to bare steerageway until you can (e.g. in heavy precip that renders radar and lookouts useless, etc.)

Then there's the "catch-all" which is that you are required to do anything in your power to avoid a collision if you determine that you're at imminent risk, even if it means breaking the rules!

The upshot of the way the navigation rules are written is that if there's a collision it is almost never the case that either master is absolved.  The only real way you avoid some responsibility is if you're properly anchored (and dayshaped/lit) or tied to a pier.

If you're legally underway (moving or not) you're going to get some percentage of the fault, in short.

But then this showed up and calls into question exactly where the split of fault lies.

Ref: https://t.co/7O112WSkgG

Boy that looks suspicious.  First, the freighter doubled back at speed and then altered course again just before the impact.

Remember, this happened in clear weather, at night.  There is no reason to believe visibility was impaired or anything of the sort.  The first violent, unsolicited maneuver (doubling back) looks suspicious standing alone given that the vessel's intended path was northeast if it was proceeding as-planned.  The second course adjustment southward just before the impact looks even worse.

I remind you that boats do not have brakes and although a destroyer is very maneuverable "on balance" compared against, say, a container ship you're not stopping one all that quickly.  Nor would the master of said vessel (whoever was on watch at the time; the commander was presumably sleeping) have had any reason to expect a violent maneuver by the stand-on vessel approaching it and which, on its present course and speed immediately prior, would pass well clear without incident.

If this was an intentional act then everything changes.  No, the master of the Fitzgerald is sitll not faultless, but there's a hell of a difference between negligent navigation and failure to avoid the consequences of an intentional act by another vessel.

Was it?

I suspect the investigation will get to the bottom of this.  Modern ships all have automated transponder equipment on them that provides course and speed ("AIS") and thus it's available to anyone who cares to look what that commercial vessel did.

The question now becomes why.

Why was the first near-180 degree turn made and then why was course altered again southward just prior to the impact, given that the second alteration, had it not been made, would have almost-certainly led to safe passage.  Further, do the timelines square with this or do they suggest something else?

In short was the collision the result of negligence or an intentional act?

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User Info Uh, What Happened Here? (Fitzgerald Collision) in forum [Market-Ticker]
Jfms99
Posts: 195
Incept: 2009-10-06

Msumelle, Ar
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I have not looked into this that closely, but at first blush I would have thought this was something that would not happen given all the technology and such available.

Now given what you have laid out there is certainly cause to wonder what really happened. If this was an intentional collision then I might not be very surprised. Almost sounds like the plot out of the James Bond movie, "Tomorrow Never Dies".

The truth will come out at the Board of Inquiry.
Mtdm
Posts: 344
Incept: 2009-07-23

NH
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It makes me wonder (not suggesting it was the case here, at all, but still...) how many of these large commercial ships have control systems which are controllable remotely. I feel like I read not that many months ago that some owners had been starting to do this as an anti-piracy measure (to be able to navigate the vehicle outside of local control even after the vehicle has been overrun). But I may be delusional in my recollection.
Tickerguy
Posts: 148967
Incept: 2007-06-26
A True American Patriot!
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I can't imagine if present it couldn't be turned off locally. Maybe not overridden but disabled entirely (propulsion at least.)

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Ahhz
Posts: 222
Incept: 2011-06-12


Online
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I like this guys working theory so far:
http://www.vesselofinterest.com/2017/06/....

A comment by him down in his comments section nicely sums it up.
Steffan Watkins wrote..
Having a track for the USS Fitzgerald would be optimal, but I'm sure they won't provide one. The impact almost surely happened at ~16:30Z; after that the Crystal's actions speak for themselves. Still on autopilot for 15 min past the accident, almost a full hour from impact to return, and possibly not calling the JP CG for that time either. The USNavy should correct their latest PR that states the impact happened at 1720Z, which is clearly incorrect, per the AIS data, which can't realistically be wrong/faked.
Radcondive
Posts: 444
Incept: 2010-09-16

Charleston, SC
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I have spent a fair amount of time on the bridge of Subs, Tenders and Aircraft Carriers. When they are underway, the bridge is a very professional place. At 0200 in a very busy shipping channel (and this is one), everyone on that bridge had to have had their game-face on and I have NEVER witnessed lackadaisical attitudes by watch standers during transits like this, NEVER. Something is grossly wrong. I KNOW that there are recordings on that class of ship of all things said over radio, the AIS is recorded for own ship and all others in area. The investigation is not going to take long. For the container ship to "T Bone" that destroyer, "Someone" made the conscious decision to do it/allow it. This smells to high heaven.
Tickerguy
Posts: 148967
Incept: 2007-06-26
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Yeah this was NOT a glancing blow..

I've been out fishing, had a contact on radar, just comes up on visual and the radio cackled up on 16 "vessel at x by y, please state intentions."

I'm feet up, ap on to point, aspect looks OK for us to pass safely astern on the radar. Grab binos, see pointy things on side of obvious warship. Aha.

"Vessel hailing motor vessel Gigabite we are en route to fishing location, will alter course to pass further astern you estimate closest approach 5 miles."

Give twist to knob on ap to deviate 10 degrees.

Half minute or so goes by, enough for them to see my course change...

"Thank you captain have a nice day" comes the reply...

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Quik49
Posts: 3906
Incept: 2007-12-11

ut
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I'm no sailor...small bayliner and dritboat, but this stinked to high heaven for me...a warship like that getting rammed in clear weather....bull**** flag up the mast....going to be interesting to see where this goes

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Long Vaseline....

Wa9jml
Posts: 8
Incept: 2017-04-29

DeKalb, Illinois
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This destroyer has one of the most advanced radar systems in existence. It is designed to track multiple targets, and should be able to see a large freighter, even with its transponder off, as incoming missiles and small attack craft are not known to use transponders, either.

Something stinks to high heaven about this incident!
Tickerguy
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I have absolutely no doubt they saw the ship which is why I think it stinks something happened

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Flappingeagle
Posts: 2602
Incept: 2011-04-14

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Every guy I've ever met who spent time in the Navy has said that there are always three lookouts, one on the bow and one on each side. So, is it difficult to tell course changes of nearby ships at night given that you have a greatly diminished frame of reference? Could the freighter have turned its lights off? Also, I would think that one of the last things on the destroyer's crews mind in friendly waters was that a container ship might try to ram them.

Flap

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Here are my predictions for everyone to see:
S&P 500 at 320, DOW at 2200, Gold $300/oz, and Corn $2/bu.
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Analog
Posts: 1414
Incept: 2010-12-29

arkansas ozarks
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Check bottom photo here
http://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-4031....

that "snout" protruding from the bow is to reduce the ship's wake. Makes a great below the waterline battering ram.


Who owns that ship ?

a.
Inline

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Aztrader
Posts: 7785
Incept: 2007-09-10

Scottsdale, AZ
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Kind of looks like one of those truck attacks in the EU.
Tsherry
Posts: 833
Incept: 2008-12-09

Spokane WA
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Maybe this is one of those cases where you see something, and you just ****ing can't believe your eyes..and you don't react as you've been trained to..because you just can't believe it.
Quik49
Posts: 3906
Incept: 2007-12-11

ut
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Bingo AZ.... No nut case radicals in the Philippines are there?

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Tickerguy
Posts: 148967
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Quote:
Every guy I've ever met who spent time in the Navy has said that there are always three lookouts, one on the bow and one on each side. So, is it difficult to tell course changes of nearby ships at night given that you have a greatly diminished frame of reference? Could the freighter have turned its lights off? Also, I would think that one of the last things on the destroyer's crews mind in friendly waters was that a container ship might try to ram them.

No ****ing way.

I've done a LOT of running at night when I owned my 45C (offshore AND inshore) and offshore, with the radar up, even without the advanced electronics and AIS (which ALL commercial and military ships have) it's trivial to see things out there of that sort of size.

Could you run down something SMALL (e.g. a 20' boat that's way the **** beyond where it should be at that time of night, all fiberglass, etc) -- especially in heavy seas where your radar might not see it until you're on top of it and might mistake it for clutter? Sure. Hell, one of my biggest fears running at night was some ******* out ~50+ nm where he had no business being with either improper or (worse) NO lights that I ran over before I saw him. I'd hang for that too, but whether it was legitimately my fault if it had happened is open to a lot of doubt. Nonetheless the navigation rules would tag me bigtime and I'd be ****ed -- civilly for sure, criminally maybe.

But a CONTAINER SHIP or DESTROYER? No ****ing way, and I have more than enough sea time to make that call.

That ship that came up on my radar -- we were doing 18kts in Gigabite at the time, which was her normal cruise speed -- was easily visible ~25nm out. Horizon is ~12-13 miles, BUT she has a lot of **** sticking up, and the radar can see it. I knew the contact was there for a half-hour before I SAW the contact (with eyes), and *SHE* saw me for a similar amount of time and knew I was on a locked course, presumably being steered by the AP since it was balls-on. SHE was tracking ME with her computers; I was tracking HER with my eyeballs on the scope.

As soon as I was in VISUAL range she came up on the VHF. Why then? Because she KNEW I could see her visually, that's why. That's ~12 miles or so. I was STILL a half-hour from being able to ram her IF I WANTED TO and compared to a container ship I'm a tiny ****ing thing of 25k gross tons and ~15' or so of horizontal aspect to her radar antenna, but I still stick out like a sore thumb.

There's not a ****ing prayer in HELL that radar didn't have a track on this vessel for an hour or two before the impact. It's flatly impossible. It's CERTAINLY possible that the crew on the container ship was not on the bridge and they had set the AP and figured the law of gross displacement would protect them (in other words, GET THE **** OUT OF OUR WAY; we're bigger than you are!) but I'm not buying that without some sort of hard evidence. They TOO have AIS + all the computers on board so unless there was NOBODY on the bridge that's implausible as well.

Don't even get me started on that ****, incidentally. I can't count the number of times I'd be 100nm offshore in Gigabite drift fishing (usually for swordfish), see something big come up on the radar at night ~20nm out from us and on a course that left me wondering if there was a risk of collision, try to hail them on 16 to get their course so I could plot it manually (heh, what 'ya gonna do when you ain't got $50,000 worth of computer to do it for you) and get nothing in response. Yeah, that happens -- a lot. It's illegal as hell but what are you going to do other than pay VERY close attention until you're damn sure whatever it is is going to pass you safely.

Modern AIS (and military radar) continually plots point of closest approach given course and speed. I didn't have that on Gigabite because at the time I owned her it was hideously expensive ($50k+). Now it's just stupidly expensive ($10k+), and so until you get into the ~100+ foot range you don't got it on board, but you probably DO (now) have MARPA, which does about half of what modern AIS systems do at a rational cost.

There's no ****ing way both vessels didn't know the other was there, absent ridiculous levels of negligence (nobody on the bridge to LOOK at the displays and HEAR the "heh *******, you're going to hit that!" alarms) or some sort of intentional (or just plain old-fashioned stupid) maneuver just before the impact that took what was a safe (but close) approach and turned it into a broadside ramming.

The latter is ridiculously unlikely too; BIG ships do NOT make large and abrupt course changes without a damn good reason, such as following a channel marker or some sort of emergency.

I was of the opinion when I saw the original impact location and type that the master of the Fitzgerald was going to hang for this. He's responsible for the delegation of command even though he was in his rack at the time, and there are dead sailors, so he gets butt****ed -- both under the laws of the sea AND the UCMJ. Now I'm not so sure -- that AIS plot cannot be squared with any sort of normal operating circumstance for a merchant vessel.

BTW, if you doubt that I owned her.... US Doc #917521. Go look it up -- looks like it's been sold to someone else since I sold her and is now owned by a lady in Alabama... :)

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Little_eddie
Posts: 1057
Incept: 2009-04-30

Delaware
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Quote:
The U.S. Navy said the collision happened at about 2:30 a.m. local time (1730 GMT Friday), while the Japanese Coast Guard said it was 1:30 a.m. local time.


if it happened at 1:30 a.m. local time then the AIS plot makes sense with the Crystal on autopilot.

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Spiderjhn
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Nags head,nc
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A strange course indeed of the freighter. Did the Fitzgerald see the suspicious track and move closer in to "sense" what maybe going on. Did the Fitz detect something it thought might be hot onboard and got in closer when it was struck? I didn't read where the freighter came from nor it's destination. No doubt the Fitzgerald knew the freighters track and had the power to avoid it.
Flappingeagle
Posts: 2602
Incept: 2011-04-14

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One last post on this and I'm done, I get seasick while the boat is still in the harbor so I'm leaving this one for you salty dogs.

When something like this happens it usually is the result of a chain of events any one of which if done differently, most likely meaning correctly in this case, would have prevented the collision. One item in that chain would be that I would not be surprised to learn that whoever was manning the bridge of the cargo ship was drunk, high, wildly inexperienced, or some combination thereof.

Happy Father's Day to all you Dads!

Flap


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Here are my predictions for everyone to see:
S&P 500 at 320, DOW at 2200, Gold $300/oz, and Corn $2/bu.
No sign that housing, equities, or farmland are in a bubble- Yellen 11/14/13
Trying to leave the Rat Race to the rats...
Tickerguy
Posts: 148967
Incept: 2007-06-26
A True American Patriot!
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There are two possibilities:

1. The track is off by an hour or more (time zone changes) and thus there was NOBODY on the bridge of the cargo ship.

2. The last course change (which made the impact happen) was INTENTIONAL.

The inquest will figure this out. But if #1, the captain of the Fitzgerald is ****ED. Doesn't matter if he delegated command, he's still responsible and if the cargo ship was on AP and nobody was on the bridge the "if risk of collision cannot be ruled out IT EXISTS" rule will **** him -- hard.

If #2, well....

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Bjonsson
Posts: 958
Incept: 2010-03-10

Ventura County, California
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Could the Fitzgerald have been trying to pass in front of what they thought was the cargo ship's route? And, somehow, the physics behind the plan got screwed up due to some speed or course change, and nobody on the bridge of the Fitzgerald took the initiative to alter the route?

If the Captain is in his quarters, and a 2AM crew faced with a "should we wake him or not" bet that suddenly goes wrong and looks like certain disciplinary trouble, might there have been some paralysis on the bridge?

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Tickerguy
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Sorry, not buying that. Possible? Sure. Probable. Nope.

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Dennisglover
Posts: 640
Incept: 2012-12-05

Huntsville, AL
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Mid-October, 1971, I was ship's company in USS Amberjack (SS-522) transiting Key West - Philadelphia. One night I stood Electrician of the Watch on the midwatch (0000-0400). We had the standard two lookouts atop the sail, and the full watch complement in the Control Room. The ocean was calm, but we had overcast sky and good visibility. The helmsman and OD were in the Conn.

As I remember it, I had just recorded the half-hour track from the DRT when the engine order telegraph clanged on "Full Astern" and the watch officer hollered at me, "Glover, awaken the Captain." (My watchspace was nearest the hatch between Control and the Forward Battery, maybe ten feet total from the CO's "stateroom" hatch.)

Even though the hatch was open I met the CO in the passageway before I got to his hatch. Apparently he "sensed" the subtle change in the ship's feel or motion or something during the 5-10 seconds after the bell call was answered from the Maneuvering Room. I just greeted him as I "made a hole" so he could get to Control, then went back to my station.

We had been making probably 12kts when one of the lookouts reported a freighter, no lights showing, dead ahead and too near for comfort, to the OD. With the helmsman in the Conn I didn't know whether he was ordered to steer "left" or "right", but I'm certain there was a course change as soon as that report came in.

I never heard anything official about the "incident".

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Goforbroke
Posts: 6974
Incept: 2007-11-30
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Where, on the ACX Crystal's path which you showed did the collision occur?

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Ingar
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Mobile,AL
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When in battle stations mode, this destroyer is supposed to be able to track and engage multiple targets. It does not speak well of the ship's training, crew, or capabilities if a larger and slower ship collides with it. We put billions of dollars into construction and deployment of carrier battle groups, of which ships like the Fitzgerald are key components for the defense of a carrier. In the age of hypersonic cruise missiles capable of pinpoint accuracy perhaps our carrier battle groups are our modern version of the Maginot line. The Exocets used by the Argentinians and Iraqis 35 years ago should have provided us with examples to ponder. Maybe we're like the British army in the First world war; send enough cavalry against machine guns and you can carry the day.
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