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National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

Collision between US Navy Destroyer Fitzgerald and Philippine-Flag Container Ship ACX Crystal

September 3, 2020

Accident Location: , Japan Sagami Nada Bay off Izu Peninsula, Honshu Island
Accident Date: 7/17/2017
Accident ID: DCA17PM018

Date Adopted: 8/3/2020
NTSB Number: MAR-20-02
NTIS Number: PB2020-101007

Executive Summary

About 0130 (local time) on June 17, 2017, the US Navy Destroyer Fitzgerald with 315 persons on board was southbound at a speed of about 22.1 knots in the bay of Sagami Nada off Japan’s Honshu Island after departing the US Navy Base at Yokosuka, Japan, bound for the Philippines. The Philippine-flag container ship ACX Crystal, operated by Sea Quest Ship Management, Inc., with 20 crewmembers on board was east-northeast-bound at a speed of about 18.5 knots, headed to Tokyo, Japan, from Nagoya, Japan. As the distance between the two ships continuously decreased, neither vessel radioed the other. Seconds before the collision, the watch officers attempted to maneuver the vessels to avoid impact, but the actions were too late, and the ships collided. Seven Fitzgerald crewmembers died in the accident, and three crewmembers suffered serious injuries. The destroyer sustained extensive damage to its forward starboard side. The ACX Crystal sustained damage to its bow; no injuries were reported.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was the lead federal agency in this accident investigation and delegated its authority to the US Coast Guard to gather documents and perform interviews on behalf of the NTSB. The NTSB developed the analysis and probable cause based on the evidence gathered by the Coast Guard and additional documentation provided by the Navy.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the collision between US Navy Destroyer Fitzgerald and container ship ACX Crystal was the Fitzgerald’s bridge team’s failure to take early and substantial action to avoid collision as the give-way vessel in a crossing situation. Contributing was ineffective communication and cooperation among the Fitzgerald crew on the bridge and in the combat information center (CIC), and the Fitzgerald commanding officer’s (CO) insufficient planning for the hazards of the vessel’s intended transit. Also contributing was the Navy’s ineffective oversight of the Fitzgerald in the areas of operations scheduling, crew training, and fatigue mitigation. Also contributing to the accident was the ACX Crystal watch officer’s lack of early detection of the Navy vessel and insufficient actions to avoid collision once in doubt as to the destroyer’s intentions.

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