U.S. Coast Guard interviews container
ship crew after warship collision
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[June 20, 2017]
By Tim Kelly and Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO (Reuters) - The United States Coast
Guard will on Tuesday start interviewing the crew of a
Philippines-flagged container ship which collided with a U.S. warship in
Japanese waters killing seven American sailors.
The U.S. coast guard investigation is one several into the incident on
Saturday involving the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the
much larger ACX Crystal. The cause of the collision at night and in
clear weather is not known.
"We are scheduled to interview the crew members," said U.S. Lieutenant
Scott Carr told Reuters, referring the crew of the merchant ship. The
USS Fitzgerald crew will also be interviewed.
The U.S. coast guard, which is undertaking the investigation on behalf
of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, will gather electronic
data and ship tracking information from the USS Fitzgerald and ACX
The investigation will also look into a time discrepancy in the ACX
Crystal's initial report of the incident south of Tokyo Bay, said Scott.
"There is a contradiction. It will be part of the investigation," Carr
The Japan Coast Guard has already spoken to the Filipino crew and is
also probing the inconsistency. It is in talks with the U.S. Navy for
access to its crew members and data from the destroyer, a spokesman for
the organization said.
The U.S. Navy did not immediately respond when asked if it would release
tracking data to the Japan Coast Guard.
The ACX Crystal reported the collision at 2:25 a.m. (1725 GMT) prompting
Japanese authorities to initially log the incident at 2:20 a.m.
The Japan Coast Guard subsequently revised the time to 1:30 a.m. meaning
the container ship waited 55 minutes before contacting the coast guard,
according to the Japan Coast Guard.
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A Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, damaged by colliding with the
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, is seen
off Izu Oshima island, Japan. Kyodo/via REUTERS
Shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon shows the merchant ship
chartered by Japan's Nippon Yusen KK, made a complete U-turn between
12:58 a.m. and 2:46 a.m. on June 17.
The Fitzgerald did not contact local authorities. The Japan Coast
Guard radioed it after receiving the first report of the collision.
Many of the crew on the U.S. ship were asleep when the collision
tore a gash under the waterline on the warship's starboard side,
flooding two crew compartments, the radio room and the auxiliary
Maritime rules suggest vessels are supposed to give way to ships on
When asked on Sunday if the damage indicated the U.S. ship could
have been at fault, Seventh Fleet commander Vice Admiral Joseph P.
Aucoin declined to speculate on the cause.
Complicating the inquiries could be issues of jurisdiction. Although
the collision occurred in Japanese waters, international maritime
rules, could allow the U.S. Navy to claim some authority over the
The incident was the greatest loss of life on a U.S. Navy vessel
since the USS Cole was bombed in Yemen's Aden harbor in 2000, when
17 sailors were killed and 39 injured
(Reporting by Tim Kelly and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Michael
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