U.S. Navy collision

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  #1  
Old 06-17-17, 07:08 AM
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U.S. Navy collision

In case you miss the news, the USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine container ship off the coast of Japan.
Very bad damage and sailors missing.
 
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Old 06-17-17, 07:24 AM
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How is that even possible? They are both huge and not exactly moving very fast., I would think they saw each other on radar? Let's hope they find them.

Tolyn

Of course I have zero experience with Navy anything.
 
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Old 06-17-17, 07:30 AM
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I already heard about it. It appears that the container ship broadsided the Navy ship. According to the news, real or fake, there is a lot of traffic in that area & it's hard to navigate especially at 2:30 am.
 
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Old 06-17-17, 02:52 PM
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I seriously can't understand this. Neither can the -ex. (44 yrs total in the USN). Multiple radars with multiple eyes on them. Multiple lookouts, OOD, JOOD and in very congested waters normally the XO or CO will be on the bridge as well. I was in some areas where they doubled the lookouts (Strait of Malacca, approaching the Panama Canal in Lake Gatun, approaching the Suez near Port Said, etc). A DDG is not a small ship but they are highly maneuverable and quick to accelerate and stop (30 kn to 0 in it's own length).

The CO will be relieved (possibly criminally charged), XO, OOD, JOOD, and Navigator possibly as well. Minimum their careers are over. Doesn't matter if they were correct per the "rules of the road" or not, they hazarded their vessel.

This is just not good in any way. And some paid the highest price.
 
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Old 06-17-17, 03:27 PM
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One thing I read says they are looking into reports that the container ship was making a u-turn at the time. I doubt those things turn on a dime, though. I also thought it was inexplicable when I saw the news of it. If this would have been in the Persian gulf there would have been warning shots and evasive maneuvers, so it's like no one saw it coming. But in friendly waters I could see how one could let their guard down somewhat. Still, navigation has got to be in hot water.
 
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Old 06-17-17, 03:57 PM
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Some ports are extremely busy. Add to that ships from all over the world and some that are not manned by the same caliber of crew as the Fitzgerald and accidents can happen.

In 2011 I spent over an hour watching the Romanian Navy's Regina Maria attempting to dock in Constanta. Beautiful weather and light wind and it was a comedy of errors. It's no wonder that accidents can happen.
 
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Old 06-17-17, 03:59 PM
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Maybe the Romanian was driving on a learner's permit.
 
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Old 06-17-17, 04:31 PM
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Even when I was in, the newer systems coming out had collision warnings. And I don't mean from 100 yds away either. If your track and theirs intersected at the same time 30 minutes in the future...it let you know. There's no way the DDG should have ever been struck unless they had some sort of mechanical failure and had no propulsion or a steering malfunction. The ship is all drive-by-wire normally, but manual operation switch over only takes a very short time.
 
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Old 06-17-17, 05:48 PM
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approaching the Panama Canal in Lake Gatun
I've been through the Panama Canal and it's congested. I think Vic explained this well, there is no excuse for what happened and that's why the Skipper is relieved of command immediately.
I guess we will learn more, but the Navy prides itself on navigating.
Yokosuka Japan has always been a homeport for the Navy and they should know it running blind.

If the ship was dead in the water I can understand it, but I haven't heard anything.
 
  #10  
Old 06-18-17, 10:44 AM
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Unless the Fitzgerald was at anchor and the other ship just rammed them I don't see how this isn't their fault. It looks like they tried to cross directly in front but didn't have enough speed. But it seems like the navigation computers and sensors should have known the trajectory.

I read one news account that the Fitzgerald was equipped with "state of the art detection equipment" which is kind of sad. I don't know that much about the Navy or these ships, but one would presume that they've got defenses against torpedoes and missiles. Not getting T-boned by a 600ft ship seems like something it should be equipped to handle.

So yeah, add me to the "How could this happen?" camp.
 
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Old 06-18-17, 10:50 AM
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From this picture



It kind of looks they might have gotten nailed by that anchor.
 
  #12  
Old 06-18-17, 03:39 PM
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I spent a lot of time as a radar operator, CIC supervisor and CIC watch officer on board Naval ships. Somebody screwed the pooch on this one and the Fitzgerald's command structure will pay a price. However, My guess is that the US warship maneuvered according to the rules of the road and the other guy did something unexpected. I've seen it happen a dozen times. Think how many car accidents happen because one driver does something unexpected.

BTW - You don't need state of the art detection equipment to plot the track of a cargo ship. An old fashioned SPS-10 (60's era) radar would be more than adequate. In this case, a congested area with restricted maneuver room it's probable that the bridge watch was using visual cues to maneuver.

I've been through the canal a half dozen times. I remember seeing ships stacked outside the canal waiting for transit. As a warship we got head of the line privileges. The good old days.
 
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Old 06-18-17, 03:56 PM
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Just an update: The Navy has called off the search. They have found bodies in the flooded compartments on the Fitzgerald.
 
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Old 06-18-17, 04:18 PM
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Good job CW...

Yeah, I can remember the CO shouting into a mike, telling small vessels to get out of the way.
People do stupid things that you can't predict sometimes. Sad..


My guess is that the US warship maneuvered according to the rules of the road and the other guy did something unexpected. I've seen it happen a dozen times.
 
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Old 06-18-17, 04:35 PM
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Exactly CW. My experience was much the same except I was never a CIC Supervisor. And our main radar was the SPS-10 ("F" IIRC). That's why I mentioned the extra eyes they would normally have.

And we agree with the command structure and RoR not mattering. There's gonna be some hell to pay.

And the CO was only there for a month. Makes me always wonder where they came from when I hear that. Were they off a big boy or an amphib? Worlds of difference there. We had a CO that came from being CHENG on an LHA. Worst shiphandler and CO I ever saw. Spent thousands of "descretionary funds" and out of pocket to turn his gig into a fishing boat. Sonar, fighting chair, rod holders, the whole bit. Everything that went wrong was always someone else's fault even though he had been warned and cautioned about it.
 
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Old 06-18-17, 05:57 PM
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I don't know much about ships but I don't understand how can the Navy captain be at fault. His ship was broadsided.
If it were a car crash with no traffic lights or signs, the container driver would be at fault. Was someone asleep at the wheel? Isn't there radar equipment to show who or what is within a mile or so? Am I over simplifying it?
 
  #17  
Old 06-18-17, 06:14 PM
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The CO is responsible for EVERYTHING that happens to his ship, whether he is asleep, awake, or not even on board. He is given the command and all the authority that goes with it, as well as the responsibility for anything that happens. Period, end of story.

In your analogy, what if the container driver had stolen the truck that hit the car. Is it still the fault of the owner? Surprisingly, the answer can still be yes, the owner may be somewhat liable, even if he wasn't driving. If the truck pulls out to cross the road and the car does nothing to avoid it, is the truck at fault or the car? That's for courts and judges. They do indeed have maritime courts and the shipping company may be found at fault and liable for damage, but that won't change the way the Navy handles it when it comes to the CO and bridge team.

See earlier responses as to modern navigation equipment as well as use of the Mk 1 eyeball.
 
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Old 06-18-17, 06:40 PM
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I usually don't use analogies & I'm sorry I did. I don't even like them. After all, the first 4 letters spell ANAL. So far, it looks like the captain's only mistake was being there & I shouldn't be surprised that laws that make no sense make him guilty.
 
  #19  
Old 06-18-17, 07:03 PM
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Shortylong - In the Navy the Captain is ultimately responsible, and accountable for the safety of the ship and his crew. I think this guy was in the rack when it happened and was injured in the collision. Usually it doesn't matter.
 
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Old 06-18-17, 07:45 PM
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I had to research "in the rack". I see that it means "in the sack". Actually, someone else conveyed that thought to be but not with words. You get the idea.
 
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Old 06-18-17, 09:36 PM
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I don't understand how can the Navy captain be at fault
Shorty, the captain's job is to take down a missile in outer space and save your butt. If he can't see a container ship coming, there could be a problem. No offense to the Navy, I did 20 years.
 
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Old 06-19-17, 01:07 AM
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Military regulations in general do not exactly follow normal Civil and Criminal codes. They can't since they apply to soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen. There are some that are very similar, and some that only apply to military situations. The regs are to maintain good order and discipline, something most civilians just take for granted until it intrudes in their own lives. Everyone know what is expected of them and what their responsibility is. In most cases they also know exactly what can happen if they fail in those responsibilities.

It may seem strange to some that have never served I guess. So to steal Ray's signature line (which he appropriated from someone else anyway...lol)..."I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you".

Btw...if the CO doesn't get relieved, it will be the only time that I've ever heard of in 40 yrs. I've seen them get relieved for much less and that was in a laxer time 30 yrs ago.

Oh, just for info...here are the possible punishments for "Hazarding a Vessel". Notice the difference between "willfully" and "negligently".

The maximum punishment for wrongfully and willfully hazarding a vessel or permitting it to be hazarded includes death or any other punishment awarded by the court-martial. The punishment for negligently hazarding or allowing an armed forces vehicle to be hazarded includes dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and confinement for two years

From this site....Article 110 Improper Hazarding of Vessel | Military Defense Lawyer
 
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Old 06-19-17, 04:53 AM
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If he can't see a container ship coming, there could be a problem.
I would agree as long as he wasn't in the sack. I could see him being replaced but I would have to see hard evidence for any other action against him. Time will tell.
 
  #24  
Old 06-19-17, 05:20 AM
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Who was at the helm at the time of the incident ?

The Ship's Captain still bears some responsibility for the actions (or inaction) of those in his command; but he should be assigned competent support staff.
 
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Old 06-19-17, 05:31 AM
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We don't know who was at the helm. Do those ships have auto pilot?
 
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Old 06-19-17, 08:16 AM
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Who was at the helm is not relevant. Typically a helmsman is a very junior enlisted sailor. The OOD (Officer of the Deck) has responsibility for conning the ship. This happened on the midwatch so it's doubtful if any of the senior officers were on the bridge.

One thing to understand is that you cannot stop a large ship on a dime (more like thousands of yards) and a ship cannot be turned in an instant. It's possible that by the time the crew could see what was coming it was too late. I am curious if the collision alarm was sounded and if so how long before the collision occurred.

I'll try to explain, at least to some extent, how the captain may be held responsible even though the investigation may ultimately place blame on the other vessel -

A board of inquiry will look at every aspect of what happened including the CO's involvement. They will look at the bridge watch quals and whether the quals were adequate.They will look at the CO's standing orders and his night orders. These are instructions that the captain provides the bridge watch. Standing orders might include "no ships within 2 miles" or "no course change without my permission". Night orders might modify standing orders to adapt to the ship's current operations. Were the CO's night and standing orders adequate? They will also look at things like the command environment - did the CO foster a relationship with his JO's where they might be hesitant to wake him at 2:30 AM fearing an a** chewing.

The bottom line is that while the ship may not be at fault, collisions at sea are unusual and they can be avoided. Why the Fitzgerald didn't avoid the collision will be the focus.

Kudos to the crew of the Fitzgerald for saving their ship. What you don't see in the photos is that the ship was holed well below the waterline, close to the keel. The last news I read of the collision was that the container ship made an unexpected turn just before the collision. The story also reported that the cargo vessel did not report the 1:30 AM collision for nearly an hour. The radio room on the Fitzgerald was destroyed.
 
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Old 06-19-17, 02:00 PM
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CW I agree with all of your very clear and rational post...except (there's always that except isn't there? Lol) this..."you cannot stop a large ship on a dime (more like thousands of yards) and a ship cannot be turned in an instant.". Now if you mean the container ship...I retract my exception completely.

If you mean the DDG, well, unless they have a failure of some sort...they almost CAN do the things you describe. My -ex was stationed on one for about 2.5 yrs and I was able to go out on it for a shakedown/family cruise from the yard in Maine where it was built. Pretty awesome for a career amphib and auxiliary guy like me. As soon as we reached the breakwater the CO/OOD came over the 1MC and told everyone to brace themselves. I was topside and heard the turbines spin up and start screaming and in probably 30 seconds or less we went from 5-8 knots to 35 kts. I swear we were almost throwing a rooster tail. After about 10 minutes of speedboat maneuvers we got the brace order again and went from flank to dead stop in about 5 seconds. Talking to the CO later he said it was about 600 ft. Reversible pitch props and 100,000+bhp will enable them to do that I guess.

That's one reason why she and I just can't get our heads around it. One of the most capable ships in the US Navy apparently hit broadside by a container ship? Just shouldn't have happened. We think it may have been more what you stated in the 4th paragraph esp the last line. Instead of making a decision, they dithered and bothered around waiting for the ship to change course and when it didn't, they didn't have an alternate plan. They could have hit the throttles and squirted out of the way. They could have backed down and stopped short. They could have turned and sped up to avoid. Instead of any of those, they blithely continued on until it was too late.

Of course these are just our opinions from 5000mi away. They have as much basis in fact as a butterfly fart can start a hurricane. The Board preliminary findings will take weeks or months and it will be old news by then.
 

Last edited by Gunguy45; 06-19-17 at 03:09 PM.
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Old 06-19-17, 02:23 PM
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I'll try to explain, at least to some extent, how the captain may be held responsible even though the investigation may ultimately place blame on the other vessel
I expect that the blame will be on the container ship. It was just reported (I know that it could be fake news) that they waited an hour to report the collision, if that means anything. Communications were cut on the Navy ship at the time of the crash.

They could have backed down and stopped short.
Is that sarcasm? Even though my father was in the Navy during "WWII, the big one" as Archie Bunker used to say, I know very little about ships. The draft never called me & I didn't call them. Anyway, how do you stop short or 'squirt away' in a ship?
 
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Old 06-19-17, 03:46 PM
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A modern DDG is nothing like ships from WWII, Korea, 'Nam, or even the 80's and 90's. It can stop in it's own length, it can accelerate like crazy. 100K bhp gas turbines give a lot of ooomph and the reversible pitch propellers are like reverser thrust on an aircraft. (Ever see a military cargo plane like a C-17 at an airshow do a tactical landing or take-off?) Not like 2 big cargo ships that waddle around at 15-20 knots and use giant diesel/or steam engines and take a mile to turn around. If you see a ship by eye or radar on what appears to be a collision course, you slow, speed up, or change direction to avoid it. When I say stop short or squirt away, that's in relation to the capabilities of commercial and older military vessels. Think 2016 Stingray ZL1 vs an 87 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.

The ONLY time a Navy vessel want's to be anywhere close to another is during underway replenishment. Now that, in even mildly rough seas, can really increase the pucker factor on the bridge. 40,000 tons of ship moving at 12 kts 90 ft away. That'll keep you focused.
 
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Old 06-19-17, 03:59 PM
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As I said, I don't know much about it. I guess that time will tell who was right & who was wrong.
 
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Old 06-19-17, 04:12 PM
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Gunguy - I agree with you, I'm an old "tincan" sailor, emphasis on the old - both me and the ships . The destroyers I served on were FRAM'd WWII era, well before gas turbines. Not only could they not stop/turn on a dime, from a flank bell they probably couldn't stop/turn in the same zip code.
 
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Old 06-19-17, 05:25 PM
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I'm learning a lot here. I didn't know that the ocean had zip codes.
 
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Old 06-19-17, 06:32 PM
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CW, yeah, there were still a few FRAM cans around when I was in. Not many that's for sure. And most of their time was spent at the pier broke or training Reservists.
 
  #34  
Old 06-20-17, 12:42 PM
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At first I thought this was almost a head-on, now it sounds like the Crystal was overtaking the Fitzgerald from behind.

After reading for hours today this guy makes the most sense to me:

I didn't initially think that the initial course change by ACX Crystal was the point of collision because the track data afterwards shows them returning to base course around their previous speed of ~18kts. It leads me to a hypothesis that the ACX Crystal was on autopilot and the crew either asleep or not present on the bridge. It would would explain why after the collision the ship returned to base course and speed and why it took half an hour after the collision for the ship to turn around and another half hour to make a report.

Otherwise, how do you explain speeding up after a massive collision and then turning around half an hour later?


https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikiped...-16_detail.png

Even though the Crystal was coming from behind at an angle with a dark night (moon wasn't up yet) I still don't see how the Fitzgerald didn't know it was coming with such a new ship and fancy gear.

I've never been on the ocean at night with no moon but I'd guess it is pretty black out there.
 
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Old 06-20-17, 12:49 PM
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If it were on auto pilot & everyone was in the sack, how could they know that the container ship were close? Does auto pilot have alarms?
 
  #36  
Old 06-20-17, 01:03 PM
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... ACX Crystal was on autopilot...

Who knows, this was just one guy's thoughts?
 
  #37  
Old 06-20-17, 01:21 PM
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Is it possible that both of them were on auto pilot?
 
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Old 06-20-17, 04:04 PM
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Absolutely not! My guess (I don't know the watch structure on Arleigh Burke Class) is that there were probably 20 trained and alert crew members on watch at the time. Bridge watch, lookouts, and CIC watch standers. If the ship was probably steaming with 3 section watch standing. That means around 100 crew members were up and at their posts at the time of the collision.

It is not unheard of for commercial vessels to steam with a very minimal bridge watch. I wouldn't be surprised that the one guy (a guess) present on the bridge was taking a nap at that hour. I'll repeat myself - somebody screwed up. My biggest question is why the Fitzgerald couldn't get out of the way. The investigation will determine who that was and my guess is that both vessels will share a part of the blame with the majority placed on the container ship.

And yes it is really dark out there on moonless nights but it is not dark to sensors of the type available to the Fitzgerald. Everyone should have the opportunity to see the stars without the interference of light and atmospheric pollution.
 

Last edited by cwbuff; 06-20-17 at 04:20 PM.
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Old 06-20-17, 04:18 PM
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my guess is that both vessels will share a part of the blame with the majority placed on the container ship.
I'd say 99 per cent of the blame on the container ship.
 
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Old 06-20-17, 04:27 PM
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They might figure out why this happened, but the CO and others will most definitely be relieved of duty.
It's just a fact of life in the Navy. You can't run aground or collide without very serious consequences regardless of why it happened.
As explained the Navy helmsman might be the lowest deck seaman, but can steer the ship and is taking orders from above. The helmsman is only doing one job of many and staying on course.

I'm just venting, this is the most tragic I've seen in a long time.
 
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