Vessel Collision in Japan Might Be Due to Navigation Error
This weekend, our firm reported on a vessel collision between the USS Fitzgerald and the ACX Crystal, a merchant vessel flying under the Philippine flag. The collision occurred around 1:30 am local time, so many of the sailors aboard the Fitzgerald were asleep at the time. Damage from the collision occurred in two berthing spaces, a machinery room, and a radio room.
Tragically, 7 sailors were killed in the crash. Their names have since been made public.
Facts Potentially Indicating Negligence
Today’s blog focuses on the details surrounding the crash. While the exact cause is unknown, there are some pertinent facts that we feel warrant a second look. We’re not alone in that assertion—the Japanese Coast Guard were allegedly questioning the crew of the Crystal as though the situation was a case of professional negligence.
The facts are these:
- Conditions were clear at the time of the collision
- The area is normally busy with sea traffic
- The Philippine-flagged ship struck the Fitzgerald
- The Crystal apparently made a sudden turn around the time of crash, kept going east, and returned to the area of the collision 50 minutes later
Together, these facts indicate that the U.S. sailors were the victims of vessel navigation error on the part of the ACX Crystal’s crew. Despite being manned entirely by Filipino sailors, the ship is operated by Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen K.K., or NYK. Japanese officials are also investigating why it took the ACX Crystal nearly an hour to report the collision—records show the collision happened at 1:30, but the call from the Crystal didn’t occur until 2:20.
An NYK spokeswoman agreed with the revised timeline reported by Japanese authorities, but didn’t clarify what had occurred during the 50 minutes between the collision and the call from the Crystal.