Fog of War

The reports and surmises surrounding the collision of the USS Fitzgerald with the container ship ACX Crystal in the shipping lanes south of Tokyo on Friday night are becoming increasingly bizarre. From the Wall Street Journal:

Some former military and commercial shipping captains speculate that the Fitzgerald may have failed to follow international regulations that require ships to give way to other vessels to their starboard, or right side.

“Unless the destroyer lost steering control, which is unlikely, it should have given right of way to the container ship,” said Yiannis Sgouras, a retired captain of tankers and cargo ships who worked in the world’s busiest trade route from Asia to Europe.

Others caution that there are potentially many other contributing factors to the collision. Tracking data sent by the cargo ship, the ACX Crystal, showed it reversed course around 2:05 a.m. local time, shortly before the time of the collision given by the U.S. Navy of approximately 2:20 a.m.

However, Nippon Yusen K.K . , the Japanese shipping company that operates the 728-foot-long ACX Crystal, has stated that the collision occurred around 1:30 a.m. That discrepancy hasn’t been resolved.

I don’t see how all of that can be true. We’ll need to wait until the facts are clearer before reaching any judgments.

Clausewitz wrote

“War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty. A sensitive and discriminating judgment is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth.”

Apparently, that dictum applies to more than war.

2 comments… add one
  • Andy

    Yes, we’ll have to wait for all the facts to see why this collision happened.

    So far it’s been determined that the ACX t-boned Fitzgerald on the starboard side. The upper decks were crushed about 1/4 to 1/3 of the ship’s beam. The ACX’s bulbous bow penetrated Fitzgerald below the waterline, flooding part of the ship, including a berthing area where seven sailors died. The pictures don’t really show the extent of the damage because much of it was below the waterline.

  • Jan

    The lights and transponder were turned off on the cargo ship. Some are questioning whether this was an accidental or a deliberate act, saying it was more like the ACX “rammed” into the Navy vessel.

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