Autopilot v. None-pilot in USS Fitzgerald’s Accident


I am puzzled by Washington Free Beacon’s article on June 23 titled “Freighter Was On Autopilot When It Hit U.S. Destroyer: USS Fitzgerald did not detect container ship”

The writer says quite a lot to prove that the Philippines-flagged cargo ship ACX Crystal was on autopilot when the collision between it and USS Fitzgerald took place, but why the US destroyer failed to detect the coming large cargo ship and avoid the collision.

The article says that the US destroyer has advanced navigation radar and also uses a commercial radar system “to enhance the shipping traffic picture of ships in its vicinity”.

It says:

Navy ships operate radar systems to detect approaching ships or submarines. Lookouts posted on the bridge are responsible for detecting ships that pose a risk of collision.

Additionally, all commercial ships over 300 tons are required under international rules to operate AIS location data. AIS information from Crystal should have been monitored by sailors on the bridge of the Fitzgerald.

It is unbelievable that an advanced US warship could not have detected a large cargo ship with its advanced radars and sensors.

What if a terrorist fast boat carrying high explosive attacks the warship? The warship would certainly sink no matter how heroic its crew were.

A fast boat may be not easy to detect as it may be stealth and too small and fast to detect, but a large cargo ship cannot be stealth or too small or fast so that it is very easy to detect.

Even if all the advanced radars and sensors on the warship had malfunctioned, there must have been at least a crew member on duty on the bridge to find the large ship and have the warship steer away to avoid the collision.

It gives the impression that the cargo ship is perhaps on autopilot but the warship was on none-pilot with no one taking care of its navigation.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Washington Free Beacon’s article, full text of which can be viewed at http://freebeacon.com/national-security/freighter-autopilot-hit-us-destroyer/?utm_source=Freedom+Mail&utm_campaign=f420f813af-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_06_30&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b5e6e0e9ea-f420f813af-46069085.

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30 Comments on “Autopilot v. None-pilot in USS Fitzgerald’s Accident”

  1. Simon says:

    Have you ever watched ‘Hornblower”? Even without modern technology they have sailers on night watch duty to perevnt those kind of accidents from happening. This is a lesson learnt by navies around the world for centures. This is something America is still trying to figure out.

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  2. Fugu says:

    She’s lucky she did not blow up in a tremendous display of glory what with all her missiles, munitions and explosives. USS Fitzgerald was lucky not safe.

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  3. Fugu says:

    And the Americans claimed their state-of-the-art Arleigh Burke warships are “defending” Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea on behalf of the world? Hah, they can’t even “defend” themselves from a AIS activated container ship travelling in a busy shipping lane. The US Navy is a joke. You don’t need “damage control” when there is no one manning their warships in the first place. Now all that irresponsible diversionary spin about possible North Korean hack of MV ACX Crystal’s autopilot. How lame can you get?

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  4. Joseph says:

    Yes, very well trained to save the crew image before the damage is even assessed. If they are trained better in nightwatch, they did not have to defend themselves in ‘saving the ship’. The Fitzgerald is a vey big ship. It is not an Arab transport dhow. Of course it remained afloat. An engine-less barge will stay afloat if it does not take so much water. Are you comparing a ‘state-to-the-art’ warship with 100 years old Titanic? The Bismarck was hit by multiple torpedoes with holes bigger than Fitzgerald’s hole. It still afloated. It needed pounding from several warships for hours to really sink. That’s a good warship. Chinese derelict minehunters were hit badly by American frigates/cutters in 1974 Sino-Vietnamese conflict. They survived and made port by their own power too. In the process they fought the American warships. The American frigates/cutters ran away with one sank. True it was crewed by South Vietnamese, but the Chinese managed to capture the American de-facto commander, from the sinking ship. What’s incredible was the Chinese did it only with RPGs as minehunters carried no antiship weapons. 40 years on, American ship quality has not improved as RPG and bulbous bow generate similar damage, although the Arleigh Burke is significantly larger than cutter/frigate.

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  5. Joseph says:

    You are comparing Fitzgerald’s superstructure with 055 upper deck? What kind of comparison is that? The Fitzgerald was hit by ship, not flying drones. Drones do not have bulbous bow to skim through the water. Bulbous bow is too heavy for drones anyway. Even so, the Fitzgerald’s blunder is probably once in a lifetime. Is the American going to reinforce all their upper decks with all steel? The ships will topple and sink. It is a good thing you don’t work for shipbuilding industry. Otherwise no ship will float, Chinese or American alike.

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  6. steve says:

    China’s engineers and naval architects fully understand their decisions and consequences in the warship construction. The secrets of inherent structural metallic composites to amalgamate the alloy is unknown to the outside world as it remains confidential.

    Military analyst are not naval architects nor engineers. Don’t be too hasty and judgemental. Indian jealousy makes U more ignorant and arrogant.

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  7. chankaiyee2 says:

    Spreading fake news is not allowed here.

    Please give a reply to Johnleecan’s comment whether he is right in telling you not to change the factual information. If johnleecan is correct, please say sorry and promise never spread fake news again. Or I will delete all your comments.

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    • Joseph says:

      Come on, CKY. Let him be. So far he has given us the chance to educate the likes of him. Otherwise we won’t have the chance to explore the topics.

      Like

      • chankaiyee2 says:

        However, I do not allow the spreading of fake news in my blog.

        I want my blog first to spread true information and second to entertain my readers. I know readers are entertained by his stupidity but I do not want him to spread fake news.

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  8. steve says:

    The seamanship of the Fitzgerald crew was highly unprofessional and incompetent.

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  9. Tyler Reber says:

    No, the most important thing is that no one died. That didn’t happen. Eight people that no doubt dreamed of aspiring futures had died.

    One would think that there is enough technology in the world today to give sailors an informational edge in awareness. It was a tragedy that should have been averted, It probably could have.

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  10. reply says:

    Chimp chimp,

    The most important thing is that the USN has a killing spree against its own sailors. Thus, the USA is more of a threat to USA than China is.

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  11. johnleecan says:

    USS Fitzgerald was towed by two tugboats. Don’t change the factual information.

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    • Fugu says:

      Don’t divert the issue. This has nothing to do with the PLA Navy.

      Like

    • johnleecan says:

      The question here is not if USS Fitzgerald crew saved their ship. It’s your assertion that USS Fitzgerald “make port” under her own power. It did not. It was towed.

      USS Fitzgerald had limited propulsion so it had to be towed.

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    • Juergen Jansen says:

      > There were only two ships involved in this collision.

      I would like to respectfully disagree.

      It seems as if there was another vessel near the collision, the Wan Hai 266 (IMO: 9233636), travelling at approximately the same course (~70°) as and a bit faster than the ACX Crystal’s ~18 kts, but roughly 2~3 sm north of it. If I should hazard a guess, I’d wager that the USS Fitzgerald, which approached form the north on a southerly course, moved to avoid the Wan Hai. The Crystal had been travelling in the Wan Hai’s radar shadow as seen from the Fitzgerald, which passed the Wan Hai’s stern and only then noticed the Crystal. The Fitzgerald’s watch didn’t correct course quickly enough and the Crystal didn’t react at all.

      May I use the chance to express my condolences for the families of the sailors who lost their lives, and my admiration for the crew who must have fought like lions to keep their ship afloat.

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      • chankaiyee2 says:

        Seems like… Please provide your source to support your guess or you are but trying to spread fake news to cover up the negligence like Red Flag.

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        • Juergen Jansen says:

          Hello,

          The Wan Hai 266 can be seen on the AIS plot of that night, as had been uploaded to youtube:

          Note that the track is accelerated. The collision of the Fitzgerald with the Crystal takes place at 1:07 in the video. The Fitzgerald’s course can be guessed from the displacement of the Crystal on impact and must have been at around 160°~170°.

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          • chankaiyee2 says:

            Sorry, that is not proof but guess.

            Red Flag’s comment has been deleted as he cannot reply the quwstion. Certainly because there is clear evidence that the warship did not make port on its own.

            His comment was deleted for spreading fake news.

            If you cannot provide proof, I am sorry yours will also be deleted as your guess is but fake news.

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            • Juergen Jansen says:

              Hello,

              The AIS plot shows that the Wan Hai 266 was sailing approx. 2~3 nm north of the ACX Crystal, on a parallel course and a bit faster.

              The pictures the Crystal and the USS Fitzgerald show that the Fitzgerald was hit on its starboard side by the Crystal’s port bow. The AIS plot shows that while locked, both ships travelled along a ~170° course. In other words, the Fitzgerald was coming from the north (the Crystal’s port side) and had been sailing on a southeasterly course.

              So far for the facts.

              From these facts I deduce that the Fitzgerald must have come across the Wan Hai, which it would have had to avoid as per COLREGS rule 15, which would have put her close to and in the path of the Crystal.

              Of course, you are free to delete contributions as you please, it’s your blog after all.

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              • chankaiyee2 says:

                Please provide your sources as so far authoritative sources have not mentioned the third ship. Have you authentic photo or video to prove the existence of the third ship.

                Bill Gertz, quite a respective writer, says in his article on the accident, “USS Fitzgerald did not detect container ship”.

                Even if there had been be two ships, the warship must have detected the two ships and took a course to avoid both.

                Do you not think that your deduction is far fetched. Do you really have no intention to distort the fact?

                Even you yourself do not think you are fully right so that you believe I will delete your comment.

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              • chankaiyee2 says:

                Do you have any knowledge about modern navigation.

                The US destroyer has advanced navigation radar and also uses a commercial radar system to enhance the shipping traffic picture of ships in its vicinity.

                With such radars the destroyer must have known well the traffic pictures of ships near it and had been well able to avoid both ships.

                I do not think I need to delete your comment as no one will believe it. It is not fake news but your imagination.

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              • chankaiyee2 says:

                You are simply absurd.

                According to you if there are two enemy warships sailing in the way described by you USS Fitzgerald will not be able to detect both and may be sunk by the one hidden by another enemy warship.

                Are you really so stupid to make others believe modern navigation equipment in an advanced warship is so incapable.

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                • Juergen Jansen says:

                  Your point about the plethora of sensors on board an Arleigh Burke destroyer, and indeed any modern warship, is well taken. My point is that any ship, even one as packed with that many sensors as an Arleigh Burke, is still being manned by humans. Humans make mistakes, e.g. by focusing on the present situation and losing sight of the whole picture when dodging traffic in a congested shipping lane. Then, when something unexpected happenes, they sometimes react by gut decisions instead of what they were trained to do instead.

                  This is exactly what happened once before, in the collision of the USS Porter (another Arleigh Burke) with the tanker Otowasan in 2012 and I expect that this case will turn out to have evolved in much the same way:

                  https://pilotonline.com/news/military/local/audio-confusion-reigned-before-destroyer-s-collision/article_c7472be8-efcb-5763-93bb-aab66d820175.html

                  Of course, the watch crew on the Fitzgerald should have been able to detect the Crystal even if it had been obscured by the Wan Hai – as the Porter’s crew should have been back then, when they discovered the Otowasan after having passed another tanker. For example, even though they don’t transmit on AIS, I am sure all US warships passively monitor it. Both the Wan Hai as well as the Crystal were visible on AIS. Furthermore, I do think that the Fitzgerald, as the Porter before it, should have turned to starboard immediately as per COLREGS.

                  They didn’t, and I expect the OOD of that watch to be court-martialed and the commander to be removed.

                  Like

      • steve says:

        Have you expressed your condolences in the Washington post, new york times.?

        Like

    • chankaiyee2 says:

      The question remains whether the warship made port on its own as you claimed.

      Please give your straight reply or your silance means you admit that you spread fake news and perhaps made the fake news on your own and wanted to spread it here.

      I will not allow you to use my forum if you persist to be dishonest.

      Like

    • Joseph says:

      A giant container ship weight over 100000 tones. The ACX Crystal has full load of less than 30000 tones. It was hardly a ‘giant’, it was rather tiny. The Fitzgerald, on the other hand, was an Arleigh Burke. It was only a little smaller than type 055. It was a giant destroyer that it might be classified as a cruiser. No matter you want to spin it, it was the crew of the ACX Crystal and Japs coast guard who saved the Fitzgerald. The Fitzgerald had helicopter, why would they need Japs helicopter to rescue Fitzgerald’s skipper? Where’s that overblown pride?

      Like

    • steve says:

      Your question is irrelevant. Why compare with PLAN. Its not your concern. Why not compare with the Indian Navy.

      Like

    • steve says:

      In this unfortunate incident, like any naval warship, the crew have to save the ship to save themselves otherwise ALL will be lost at sea.

      Like