SINGAPORE: A US warship involved in a collision with a Liberian-flagged oil tanker in Singapore waters did not send out signals about its movements, Singapore authorities said on Thursday (Sep 28).
The Transport Safety Investigation Bureau (TSIB) – a unit within the Ministry of Transport which looks into air and sea accidents – gave this update about one month after the accident between the USS John S McCain and an oil tanker.
USS John S McCain and Liberian-flagged vessel Alnic MC collided at about 5.30am on Aug 21.
TSIB said it has reviewed the Maritime and Port Authority’s (MPA) Vessel Traffic Information System recordings and found that both vessels showed up on MPA’s radar.
The system pulls together data from various sources like radars and closed-circuit televisions, to present a comprehensive sea situation to officers monitoring maritime traffic.
The system can also capture Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals – which give details such as a ship’s speed and direction – from vessels.
TSIB said on Thursday that MPA only received AIS signals from Alnic MC, but not from USS John S McCain.
The statement, however, also said: “Mandatory carriage of AIS under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) is not applicable to ships of war and troop ships.”
When asked if the AIS signals were turned off on USS John S McCain, US Seventh Fleet public affairs officer Clayton Doss told Channel NewsAsia he could not comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
CHANGES TO US NAVY OPERATIONS
According to a US Naval Institute report, one of the immediate changes to US Navy fleet operations after recent collisions is that surface fleet ships will now announce their presence in shipping lanes with heavy traffic.
The US will also, for the first time, institute formal rest guidelines for sailors on ships, as part of a sweeping set of new rules based on an internal command message within the US Navy, said the Navy Times.
Following the USS McCain incident, the Navy sacked the commander of its Pacific-based Seventh Fleet, and several other officers and enlisted sailors have been relieved of duty or reprimanded.
The collision left 10 sailors dead and their bodies were found on board the warship, after a one-week search effort led by Singapore.
“All 10 fallen sailors have been returned to the United States where families are making arrangements,” commander Clayton Doss said.
“The families have the full support of the US Navy community in Yokosuka, Japan, where the ship is forward deployed, as well as from US Navy resources in the United States, including representatives who liaison with family members directly.”
The warship – currently moored at Changi Naval Base – is set to leave Singapore in October. It is bound for Yokosuka aboard a heavy lift vessel.
TSIB said it has conducted interviews and gathered relevant information from Alnic MC and its crew, as well as ships in the vicinity at the time of collision. Authorities are still working with the US Coast Guard to collect information from USS John S McCain.
It could take a year before answers as to why and how the vessels collided will surface, the bureau said.
TWO COLLISIONS WITHIN WEEKS
Meanwhile, Singapore authorities are also handling another collision at sea.
Three weeks after the USS John S McCain collision, a separate collision occurred in Singapore waters.
On Sep 13, Indonesian-registered tanker Kartika Segara collided with Dominican-registered dredger JBB De Rong 19 – at about 12.40am.
The collision left two seamen dead and three missing. Singapore agencies are still looking for the missing seamen. Channel NewsAsia understands that the search no longer involves divers.
Despite the recent collisions, maritime experts say Singapore waters are safe, and that accidents cannot be totally prevented.
Resolve Salvage and Fire managing director Anuj Sahai said collisions can occur for many reasons, including situational awareness, tide occurrence, engine breakdowns and fatigue.
“You can control your own ship but you cannot control the other ship. So those things do matter," Captain Anuj said.