The US Navy has announced a worldwide pause in its operations after U.S. warship was damaged after colliding with a merchant vessel east of Singapore on Monday.
This was the second collision involving a US warship in just over two months. In addition to the 10 missing sailors, the Navy said five were injured in the collision
“As you know this is the second collision in three months and the last of a series of incidents in the Pacific theater,” Richardson said.
“This trend demands more forceful action. As such I have directed an operational pause be taken in all of our fleets around the world.”
US Defense Secretary James Mattis, on a visit to Jordan, said Richardson’s “broader enquiry will look at all related accidents, incidents at sea, that sort of thing. He is going to look at all factors, not just the immediate one.”
However, there was no official word on how long the disruption to the world’s most powerful navy, active in all of the world’s oceans, might last.
Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship hit each other in waters off Japan.
Singaporean ships and helicopters were also responding, the Navy said.
Ten US sailors were still missing after the John McCain collided with a tanker, tearing a large hole in its hull.
The badly damaged destroyer limped into port in the city-state of Singapore in the afternoon under escort after the dramatic pre-dawn accident, which sent water flooding into the vessel.
The US Navy said there was “significant damage to the hull” of the warship in the latest collision, which led to flooding of crew sleeping areas, machinery and communications rooms.
“Damage control efforts by the crew halted further flooding,” they said in a statement after the John S. McCain arrived at Changi Naval Base in the city-state.
The vessel is named after US Senator John McCain’s father and grandfather, who were both admirals in the US navy. McCain himself, who as a naval pilot was shot down during the Vietnam War and held prisoner, welcomed the review.
“I agree with Admiral Richardson that more forceful action is urgently needed to identify and correct the causes of the recent ship collisions,” he said.
“I expect full transparency and accountability from the Navy leaders as they conduct the associated investigations and reviews.”
Singapore, Malaysia and US ships and aircraft were all involved in the hunt for the missing sailors.
President Donald Trump tweeted: “Thoughts & prayers are w/ our @USNavy sailors aboard the #USSJohnMcCain where search & rescue efforts are underway.”
The commander of a US Navy ship that collided with a Philippine-flagged cargo ship off Japan,killing seven American seamen, will be relieved of duty and several other sailors face punishment, a senior admiral said.
Among those being disciplined from the crew of the USS Fitzgerald are its commanding officer, executive officer and senior enlisted sailor, who will all be relieved of their duties aboard the ship, said Admiral Bill Moran, the vice chief of naval operations.
"They will be detached from the ship for cause, which (means) we've lost trust and confidence for their ability to lead in those positions and they will not return to the ship," Moran told reporters.
Seven sailors drowned in their sleeping berth when the USS Fitzgerald collided with the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal in a busy shipping channel off Japan's coast early on June 17.
Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, who heads the Navy's 7th Fleet, based in Yokosuka, Japan has notified one sailor of his or her punishment and the rest would likely be informed. About a dozen sailors are expected to be disciplined in total.
"If it's clear to (Aucoin) that some members of that crew should no longer be doing this line of work, it's time to move them on, it's time to take accountability actions," Moran said.
Moran said the sailors could face further punishments later one, depending on the outcome of various ongoing probes. "I'm not telling they will or they won't. It's just we are not done with the investigation," Moran said. Aged 19 to 37, the drowned seamen were found by divers in flooded sleeping quarters a day after the collision tore a huge gash in the side of the Fitzgerald.
Moran spoke to Pentagon reporters just as the Navy released findings from a preliminary inquiry into what happened in the immediate aftermath of the crash.
The report found that all seven victims died in the line of duty and their deaths were not due to any misconduct on their part. Investigators praised the quick-thinking and "heroic" actions of sailors who worked to save shipmates, one of whom had to be dragged from his bunk in a flooding sleeping area as waters quickly rose.
One sailor who was rescued moments before he would have drowned reported that "when taking his final breath before being saved, he was already submerged and breathed in water."
Additionally, the report describes how the ship's commanding officer was injured when the merchant ship Crystal struck his cabin, trapping him inside. Fellow sailors had to smash and pry his door open before retrieving the commander, who was "hanging from the side of the ship.
The officer was eventually medically evacuated by helicopter. Moran praised the actions of the drowned sailors. The last of them to be buried was laid to rest on Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington.
With PTI Inputs