AIS Vessel Tracking Provides View of USS Fitzgerald Collision

Posted by Chris Leslie

 Early Saturday morning, a US destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, was hit by a container ship just off the coast of Shimoda, Japan. The collision claimed the lives of seven US Navy Sailors. In the aftermath of this tragedy, both sides are trying to figure out exactly what happened.

The container ship, ACX Crystal, and the US Navy initially reported the incident at 2:25 am, local time. However, they have since revised the time to 1:30 am.

Apparently, the ACX Crystal made a U-turn at around 2:00am to go back and see what it hit. It arrived back at the scene at 2:20, at which point it was called in to the Coast Guard.

PortVision 360's AIS vessel tracking functionality supports these times and gives us a clear picture of the cargo ships movements.

ACXCrystalTrack-1.jpgThe ACX Crystal vessel track from PortVision 360. The red segments indicate where the vessel slowed to below 5 knots.

The US and Japan Coast Guards will set out to determine exactly what happened. Some initial impressions from the incident include:

  • Why did the ACX Crystal wait 55 minutes before reporting the collision?
  • Maritime rules say that vessels are supposed to give way to ships on their starboard, which would indicate that the ACX Crystal had the right of way.
  • Steffan Watkins, an IT security consultant and ship tracking analyst for Janes Intelligence Review told, "I suspect, from the data, that the ACX Crystal was running on autopilot the whole time, and nobody was on the bridge. If anyone was on the bridge, they had no idea how to turn off the autopilot" and after analyzing the tracking data, "This is, to me, proof that a computer was driving. No captain shakes off a collision with a US Navy Destroyer and resumes course so perfectly."
  • How could such a technologically advanced warship, made to be able to maneuver quickly, not avoid the container ship?
  • The Navy captain was not on the bridge, he remained in his cabin where he was injured during the collision. Did the Officer on Duty fail to call him up to the bridge for help managing the situation? Did he ignore the OOD’s call for help? Or, did the bridge team not realize they were in trouble until it was too late?

We will continue to learn more about this incident as the crew interviews begin and the investigations get underway. What ever the findings, hopefully we can learn from them and prevent future events like these from happening.

In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the friends and families of the 7 US Navy sailors, which included 2 local men from Chula Vista and San Diego, CA.

To learn more about AIS Vessel tracking, download our free PortVision 360 info sheet below.

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Posted on Jun 22, 2017, 6:07:00 AM

Topics: AIS, USCG, Container, Shipping, PortVision 360