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Navy Announces Sweeping Changes After Fatal Ship Crashes


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Senior US Navy officials briefed reporters at the Pentagon Thursday, on the Fleet Comprehensive Review and Investigation into the deadly collisions involving the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain.

"We are a Navy that learns from mistakes and the Navy is firmly committed to doing everything possible to prevent an accident like this from happening again," Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations. "We will spend every effort needed to correct these problems and be stronger than before."

When asked if he feels responsible? Richardson said, "Yes, I feel responsible. We are aware of this, I own it." But he said he feels his sailors still have confidence in him.

Richardson outlined a list of some 60 recommended improvements that range from improved sailor training, navigation, crew requirements and safety procedures that will take place across the Pacific fleet and other fleets in the Navy.

The report, some 170 pages, specifies recommendations beefing up qualification standards for sailors who stand watch — a key point of failure in the two deadly collisions. 

Others call for improved navigational skills and certifications for sailors, including more sophisticated training on radar, piloting, communications and other high-tech equipment.

Proposed changes focused on five main areas: fundamental skills, teamwork, operational safety, assessment procedures and culture. 

"Many of the decisions made that led to this incident were the result of poor judgment and decision making of the Commanding Officer," the report said. "That said, no single person bears full responsibility for this incident. The crew was unprepared for the situation in which they found themselves through a lack of preparation, ineffective command and control, and deficiencies in training and preparations for navigation."

The crew's grueling schedule and resulting fatigue was also highlighted in the report as contributing to the accident.

"The command leadership allowed the schedule of events preceding the collision to fatigue the crew," the report said, adding that the leadership had also "failed to assess the risks of fatigue and implement mitigation measures to ensure adequate crew rest."

It also cited the crew's failure to follow international maritime traffic rules that govern the maneuvering of vessels when the risk of collision is present, as well as the crew's "insufficient proficiency and knowledge" of the ship's steering and propulsion systems.

This review is the result of two deadly ship collisions which occurred earlier this year that killed 17 sailors.

Richardson says there was negligence which took place among sailors, when the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker collided near Singapore in August, leaving 10 US sailors dead. 

He adds similar problems took place when seven sailors died in June after the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided near Japan. 

As a result of the two deadly accidents, eight top Navy officers, including the 7th Fleet commander, were fired from their jobs, and a number of other sailors received reprimands or other punishment that was not publicly released.

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