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US Navy Orders Operational Pause, Broad Probe Following Collision Near Singapore

By Jeff Seldin August 21, 2017

The U.S. Navy has ordered an immediate, worldwide "operational pause" after a guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship Monday east of Singapore, the second such collision in as many months.

Ten American sailors are reported missing and five injured, with the USS John S. McCain sustaining "significant damage" as a result of the incident near the Strait of Malacca, according to a statement from the U.S. 7th Fleet.

The chief of naval operations, Admiral John Richardson, has ordered an immediate operational pause for all U.S. fleets, along with a broader investigation in the root causes of what he described as a "series of incidents in the Pacific Theater."

"This requires urgent action," Richardson said in a video statement. "I want our fleet commanders to get together with their leaders and their commands to ensure we're taking all appropriate immediate cautions to ensure safe and effective operations."

Richardson said the broader investigation will look at training and operational tempo as well as at equipment and maintenance.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters while traveling in Jordan he "fully supports" Navy Admiral John Richardson's probe that "will look into all related accidents at sea."

"Once we have those facts, we'll share them with you," Mattis said.

The commander of the U.S. Pacific fleet, Admiral Scott Swift, is enroute to Singapore to take charge of operations involving the damaged USS McCain.

Officials said the collision punctured a hole in the ship's hull, below the waterline, causing several areas to flood, including a sleeping compartment for sailors as well as some of the ship's communication rooms.

The Singapore military evacuated four of the injured sailors by helicopter to a hospital in Singapore, where they are being treated for non-life threatening injuries. The fifth sailor did not require medical attention.

Search & rescue

The U.S. Navy says it is continuing search and rescue operations with the help of local authorities, including the Malaysian and Singaporean navies.

The USS America, an amphibious assault ship that had been in the region, is also on the scene in Singapore to help with search and rescue operations, as well as with damage assessment.

The collision is the second involving a ship from the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship hit each other in waters off Japan.

In the case of the USS Fitzgerald, the Navy relieved the captain of his command and other sailors are to be punished after an inquiry found poor seamanship and flaws in keeping watch contributed to the collision.

The USS McCain had been scheduled for a routine port visit in Singapore when it collided with the Liberian-flagged tanker ship Alnic MC at about 6:20 a.m. local time.

Despite the damage, the McCain was able to pull into Singapore's Changi Naval Base under its own power.

Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority said the Alnic MC also sustained damage, but that there were no injuries among its crew.

President tweets support

U.S. President Donald Trump expressed support on Twitter, writing that his "thoughts and prayers" are with the sailors aboard the McCain.

The USS McCain is named for the father and grandfather of U.S. Senator John McCain, who each served as U.S. Navy admirals.

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