Two days ago the US Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald got into a ship-to-ship collision, its starboard damaged by the oncoming bow of the container ship ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan. The formidable Ashleigh Burke-class warship took some heavy damage to its structure. Several sailors aboard also disappeared after the collision, suspected of having fallen overboard. Later searches instead found the missing Navy men dead in flooded compartments of the Fitzgerald, a tragic event. But an investigation of the Japanese Coast Guard has revealed that it took almost an hour before the ship-to-ship collision was reported to them, a critical amount of time that may factor into the course of event that led to American sailors dying on their ship.

Different times

The dangerous encounter between the USS Fitzgerald and the ACX Crystal, flagged in the Philippines, took place after midnight on Saturday June 17, just offshore from Japan’s Izu peninsula southwest of Tokyo. The Japan Coast Guard recorded a distress call from the ACX Crystal at 2:25 AM, and that it was five minutes after the collision noted to have occurred 2:20 AM. After interviewing the crew of the cargo vessel however, the JCG now revised the collision time estimate to 1:30 AM, a full 50 minutes earlier from the original.

But Japanese officials opine that it would be normal for a delay of almost an hour or so to happen before a ship-to-ship collision could be reported. The crew of the ACX Crystal was determined to have sensibly prioritized checking the extent of their own collision damage, as well as trying to avoid any other craft going through their shipping lane.

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Only afterward could they spare time to report their run-in with the USS Fitzgerald. However the US 7th Fleet, to which the Fitzgerald is assigned to, maintains the time of 2:20 AM for their collision with the container ship.

Unclear picture

According to shipping data provided by Marinetraffic.com, the 29,000-ton ACX Crystal was navigating its course off the Izu coastline when it suddenly made a sharp right turn close to 1:30 AM, the same as the new time of collision being put forth by the Japan Coast Guard. US officials and their Japanese counterparts have provided no explanation on why their respective services have a discrepancy on the time of the crash. The US 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin can offer no clarification during a press briefing Sunday Jun 18, save that multiple lines of investigation will be opened.

Seven sailors of the USS Fitzgerald were found death inside the destroyer’s berthing compartments, among the sections crushed by the ACX Crystal’s bow. President Donald Trump offered condolences to the families of the casualties Monday June 19 on Twitter.