U.S. Navy Admiral Orders Operational Pause 'In All Our Fleets Around the World'

By Susan Jones | August 21, 2017 | 5:29 AM EDT

A collision between the USS John McCain and a merchant vessel east of Singapore left the U.S. guided-missile destroyed with a gaping hole in its hull. (Photo: Screen grab from CNN)

(CNSNews.com) - Admiral John Richardson, the chief of U.S. Naval Operations, said Monday morning that the collision of the USS John McCain with a merchant ship near Singapore is among several troubling naval incidents in the Pacific Theater.

It comes around two months after the USS Fitzgerald, another U.S. Navy destroyer, crashed into a merchant ship near the Philippines.

"This trend demands more forceful action," Richardson said in a video news release posted on Twitter and the U.S. Navy website.

"As such, I've directed an operational pause be taken in all of our fleets around the world. I want our fleet commanders to get together with their leaders and their commands to ensure that we're taking all appropriate immediate actions to ensure safe and effective operations around the world.

"In addition to that operational pause, I've directed a more comprehensive review, to ensure sure that we get at the contributing factors, the root causes, of these incidents. This review is in addition to the investigations that are looking into the details of collisions of the USSS Fitzgerald and now the USS John McCain."

Richardson said the comprehensive review will examine, among other things, the training and certification process for the surface warfare personnel, "including tactical and navigational proficiency."

President Donald Trump tweeted "thoughts and prayers" Sunday night to the U.S. Navy sailors aboard the USS John McCain, which is the second U.S. guided missile destroyer to collide with a merchant vessel.

The search continues east of Singapore, in the Straits of Malacca, for the ten missing sailors.

According to the U.S. Navy, the USS John McCain – named after the sitting senator’s father and grandfather, both of them Navy admirals – arrived at Changi Naval Base in Japan on Monday, following a collision that caused “significant damage” to the hull, flooding crew berths as well as machinery and communications rooms.

“Damage control efforts by the crew halted further flooding,” the Navy announced early Monday morning.

The ten missing sailors may have been thrown from the ship during impact. Five sailors have injuries described as non-life-threatening. Four of the injured were flown to a hospital in Singapore.

The Navy said the USS John McCain, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, collided with a Liberian-flagged, 600-foot oil and chemical tanker on Aug. 21.

“The incident will be investigated,” the Navy tersely announced late Sunday Washington time.

The U.S. Navy ship was leaving Singapore after a “routine port visit,” the Navy said. It sailed to Japan under its own power.

Just last week, the U.S. Navy announced that the commanding officer, executive officer and command master chief of the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald had been relieved of their duties, following the June 17 collision between the Fitzgerald and a Philippine-flagged merchant ship.

Seven sailors died in that incident.

“The collision was avoidable and both ships demonstrated poor seamanship,” the Navy announced following its investigation into the Fitzgerald crash.

“Within Fitzgerald, flawed watch stander teamwork and inadequate leadership contributed to the collision that claimed the lives of seven Fitzgerald Sailors, injured three more and damaged both ships."

The Navy relieved Cmdr. Bryce Benson of his duties because, although he was sleeping below-decks when the crash happened, he has “absolute accountability for the safe navigation of the Fitzgerald,” the Navy said.

Cmdr. Sean Babbitt, the executive officer, and Master Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin were cited for “inadequate leadership,” which “contributed to the lack of watch stander preparedness and readiness that was evident in the events leading up to the collision.”

Several junior officers were relieved of their duties due to “poor seamanship and flawed teamwork as bridge and combat information center watch standers.” Additional administrative actions were taken against members of both watch teams.

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