U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

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Mikedunford
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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

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Post by Mikedunford »

Possibly worth noting:

Not sure what the total officer complement is for that class of destroyer, but it's probably close to 22. I'm sure that all US Navy officers are trained in, and expected (at least in theory) to have mastery of, the rules of the road. But as a purely pragmatic matter, I'm not sure I'd expect the supply or disbursing officers to maintain as much proficiency as (eg) the operations officer.
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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

#277

Post by Sam the Centipede »

Maybenaut wrote:
Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:13 pm
Yeah, that was kind of my point. The rules might vary depending on the type of navigation you're typically engaged in, and the ones you deal with every day will be more familiar.
I get that and I was agreeing with you :bighug: :thumbs:

The COLREGS rules are similar to so many bodies of regulations: they look complex but the underlying principles are often a mixture of the blindingly obvious: "look where you're going and try not to hit anything, especially when overtaking" and the vety simple: "if it looks like you might hit another ship's left side, turn right". The regulations then deal with the difficult cases, to make it clear that a cargo ship should give way to a fishing boat, not expect it to pull up its nets.

A key point (imho) in the USS Fitzgerald case was that this was exactly the textbook's first exercise, no complicating factors, two ships in open water.

It was interesting how many contributors here were saying "there must have been a technological problem", underestimating the massive prevalence of human error (sometimes to an implausible degree) in these incidents.

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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

#278

Post by Maybenaut »

Sam the Centipede wrote:
Fri Jan 18, 2019 5:07 am
Maybenaut wrote:
Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:13 pm
Yeah, that was kind of my point. The rules might vary depending on the type of navigation you're typically engaged in, and the ones you deal with every day will be more familiar.
It was interesting how many contributors here were saying "there must have been a technological problem", underestimating the massive prevalence of human error (sometimes to an implausible degree) in these incidents.
I keep getting the facts of the McCain and the Fitzgerald confused. One of them had an issue with the steering; the setting were off, causing the helmsman to think he was going in one direction when he was really going another (I can’t recall all the details, but that was the gist). But to the extent there was a trchnological problem, the real problem, IMO, is relying to much on technology.
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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

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Post by ZekeB »

Mikedunford wrote:
Fri Jan 18, 2019 3:59 am
Not sure what the total officer complement is for that class of destroyer, but it's probably close to 22. I'm sure that all US Navy officers are trained in, and expected (at least in theory) to have mastery of, the rules of the road. But as a purely pragmatic matter, I'm not sure I'd expect the supply or disbursing officers to maintain as much proficiency as (eg) the operations officer.
I was a fully qualified Supply Officer in the Navy Reserves. I was not taught one iota of navigation, rules of the road or anything else related to ship handling. I was not expected to have command of a ship under any circumstances. If all other officers were put out of action, I was still not supposed to take command. That falls to a senior enlisted member.
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Sam the Centipede
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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

#280

Post by Sam the Centipede »

Maybenaut wrote:
Fri Jan 18, 2019 7:05 am
I keep getting the facts of the McCain and the Fitzgerald confused.
Yeah, I get them muddled too, and muddled with other ship collision reports I have read.

There are often technological issues involved in these accidents, but I'm not sure that I'd characterize it as over-reliance. Realistically a bridge crew must rely on its radars to understand what's going on around them, because it's too difficult to observe with the naked eye or binoculars. Radar gives the vessel's details, position, course and speed, while the eye just sees a grey blob in the distance; with AIS running, it also identifies the ship, its details (size, cargo, etc.), destination and so on.

Rather than over-reliance, it's inappropriate use of technology, or failure to understand its limitations, or failure to cross-check against other systems.

Occasionally the technology itself causes problems. Some navigation systems produce so many spurious warnings of possible issues with a planned course in moderately shallow waters (such as a coastal route) that the navigator will ignore them, or even if not ignoring them, will not spot the genuninely worrying warning hidden in the morass of irrelevance. That factor has led to ships running aground – the navigator can miss the important "wow! that's going to scrape!" warning mixed in the shower of "hey, this looks a bit shallow!" warnings. Of course, often a better trained and conscientious navigator can work out how to configure the system so it produces only the significant warnings, although some systems are apparently poor at this.

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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

#281

Post by RTH10260 »

Sam the Centipede wrote:
Fri Jan 18, 2019 5:07 am

It was interesting how many contributors here were saying "there must have been a technological problem", underestimating the massive prevalence of human error (sometimes to an implausible degree) in these incidents.
The reputation of the US Navy as a well trained fighting corps has taken a yuuuge hit.

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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

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Post by ZekeB »

They had the technology. They had it turned off. The dufii.
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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

#283

Post by Notorial Dissent »

According to an ABC News report, the Navy has dropped the charges and courts martial of Cmdr. Bryce Benson and former crew member Lt. Natalie Combs, instead they will receive a Secretarial Letter of Censure.
The fact that you sincerely and wholeheartedly believe that the “Law of Gravity” is unconstitutional and a violation of your sovereign rights, does not absolve you of adherence to it.

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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

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Post by ZekeB »

Nearly the same result as a courts martial - their careers are over. The CDR is probably near the time that allows him to retire, so he will probably retire at his current rank if/when he hits the 20 year mark. Lt Combs probably holds a USNR commission and will not be promoted. She probably has about 10 years of service and I doubt that she will be able to hang on for another 10 years. In this case I'd say the ship's captain was the less-severely punished.
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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

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Post by Notorial Dissent »

According to the article, Combs has already left the Navy.
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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

#286

Post by Maybenaut »

Notorial Dissent wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2019 6:24 am
According to the article, Combs has already left the Navy.
I think that’s unlikely. The abc news article says she was “dismissed from her job” (sloppy reporting - “dismissal” has a specific meaning and can only be the result of a court-martial), but it doesn't say she left the Navy. And if she had left the Navy, the Navy would lose jurisdiction over her.

As to Benson, if he’s retirement eligible, he’d likely be retired as a Lieutenant Commander, the last grade successfully held.
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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

#287

Post by Sam the Centipede »

Link for the article: abc news: Navy drops criminal charges in USS Fitzgerald collision that killed 7 De nada, smigos.

When charges are dropped, reduced, etc. in high profile cases, it's tempting to speculate on why that action was taken. Humanity, economy, risk of embarrassment, difficulty of proof, it could be any of those or others. It's certainly unpleasant if junior officers or even non-officers appear to be taking the blame for systemic failures.

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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

#288

Post by ZekeB »

Maybenaut wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2019 7:46 am
As to Benson, if he’s retirement eligible, he’d likely be retired as a Lieutenant Commander, the last grade successfully held.
Can they retire you at a lower grade if you weren't found guilty of anything by courts martial or UCMJ article 15?
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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

#289

Post by Maybenaut »

ZekeB wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2019 5:29 am
Maybenaut wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2019 7:46 am
As to Benson, if he’s retirement eligible, he’d likely be retired as a Lieutenant Commander, the last grade successfully held.
Can they retire you at a lower grade if you weren't found guilty of anything by courts martial or UCMJ article 15?
Well, Benson was found guilty at Art. 15 before the case was referred to court-martial (yes, they can do that, and no it’s not double jeopardy - the prior Art. 15 only impacts the sentence the court-martial can adjudge).

But even if there is no court-martial or Art. 15, they can still bust you down at retirement. They hold a “grade determination board,” which is a one-officer paper board (you don’t get to appear in person, but you do get to tell the board in writing why you should retire in your present grade). Then the Board makes a recommendation to the Secretary of the Navy (who invariably follows the recommendation — but didn’t in one famous case that we discussed here on Fogbow, but I can’t remember the details of that).
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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

#290

Post by Somerset »

Sam the Centipede wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2019 11:38 pm
Link for the article: abc news: Navy drops criminal charges in USS Fitzgerald collision that killed 7 De nada, smigos.

When charges are dropped, reduced, etc. in high profile cases, it's tempting to speculate on why that action was taken. Humanity, economy, risk of embarrassment, difficulty of proof, it could be any of those or others. It's certainly unpleasant if junior officers or even non-officers appear to be taking the blame for systemic failures.
I read that improper command influence played a role. Maybenaut?

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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

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Post by ZekeB »

It does appear that command objectives took priority over safety. This wasn't the only incident and one could speculate that the actions the ship's crew took were SOP at command level.
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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

#292

Post by Maybenaut »

Somerset wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2019 11:15 am
Sam the Centipede wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2019 11:38 pm
Link for the article: abc news: Navy drops criminal charges in USS Fitzgerald collision that killed 7 De nada, smigos.

When charges are dropped, reduced, etc. in high profile cases, it's tempting to speculate on why that action was taken. Humanity, economy, risk of embarrassment, difficulty of proof, it could be any of those or others. It's certainly unpleasant if junior officers or even non-officers appear to be taking the blame for systemic failures.
I read that improper command influence played a role. Maybenaut?
Yeah, that’s what this Navy Times article suggests.

https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-nav ... a-whimper/

Unlawful Command Influence is a funny thing. Historically, if you were going to win on that basis, you needed to win it at the trial level, but people rarely did. The appellate courts paid lip service, but never granted relief. That’s changing. There has been a spate of cases in the last 10 years or so where both the trial courts and the appellate courts have started to put the hammer down. Most recently, the Deputy Judge Advocate General of the Navy was found to have committed UCI by suggesting to the convening authority that he should consider the impact that not referring a sex assault case to general court-martial would have on his career (maybe not exactly that, but it’s close).
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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

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Post by tek »

There's no way back
from there to here

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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

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Post by ZekeB »

So the Navy actually blamed the system and not the person? That's a new one on me. They've usually called it human error and then declared the problem as being solved.
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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

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Post by Notorial Dissent »

My, ain't that interesting.
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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

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Post by Tiredretiredlawyer »

https://features.propublica.org/navy-us ... eir-lives/
COLLISION COURSE
When the USS John S. McCain crashed in the Pacific, the Navy blamed the destroyer’s crew for the loss of 10 sailors. The truth is the Navy’s flawed technology set the McCain up for disaster.
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The 19th Amendment was first introduced to Congress in 1878, yet it was not approved by Congress until 1919 – 41 years later.
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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

#297

Post by Sam the Centipede »

Wow. I know I've always gone for the line that these incidents are near-as-dammit always traceable to a series of human errors rather than only failure of equipment, but that is based on what happens with merchant vessels as reported in accident investigations. Operators of merchant shipping want reliable systems that can be operated safely by a small crew. They are not tied into the military-industrial complex wishing to sell more expensive technology regardless of its appropriateness. Merchant shippers are risk-averse, not dazzled by gee-whizzery.

If these systems were so bad, the human error is obviously further back in history, when those specifying, commissioning installing, checking, reviewing, auditing those systems didn't take into account their reliability, robustness and usability. That is disgraceful. But perhaps a large part of the problem is that no single person, or no single (small) department, has the responsibility and power to say "this is busted, we need to fix it!"?

Obviously a huge ship cannot have an old-fashioned wheel connected by ropes and chains to the rudder, but it seems to me only prudent that any vessel should have a means of switching off the automated systems and having as-manual-as-possible direct control of steering, throttles etc. so the automated system can be overridden if it goes bananas or cannot cope appropriately with an unforeseen situation. And it would seem doubly prudent on a warship, which might be shot at, so any part of its systems might be damaged in a random way.

It does seem blame has been been handed out mainly to cover senior posteriors.

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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

#298

Post by neeneko »

Sam the Centipede wrote:
Fri Dec 20, 2019 10:50 am
I know I've always gone for the line that these incidents are near-as-dammit always traceable to a series of human errors rather than only failure of equipment
I tend to be in the camp that believes if equipment provides a fertile ground for human error, then it has failed.

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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

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Post by Sterngard Friegen »

The story about the touch screen navigation and control system reminds me of the problems with the controls on the 737 MAX, except that the Navy's system replaced a time tested system that had worked, and the Boeing system tried to patch up inherent problems in a redesigned airplane whose flaws resulted from Boeing's attempts to side step government approval of a new airframe. In each case, faith in untested technology which human beings could not safely operate caused people to die.

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Re: U.S. Navy destroyer collides with merchant vessel off Japan

#300

Post by Sam the Centipede »

neeneko wrote:
Fri Dec 20, 2019 11:37 am
Sam the Centipede wrote:
Fri Dec 20, 2019 10:50 am
I know I've always gone for the line that these incidents are near-as-dammit always traceable to a series of human errors rather than only failure of equipment
I tend to be in the camp that believes if equipment provides a fertile ground for human error, then it has failed.
I wouldn't disagree, except that is a failure of design and implementation rather than usage. I'm certainly not trying to say technology is perfect or wonderful!!

Rather, in the merchant cases, if the equipment failed to provide a warning (for example) it was because it was being used improperly, such as radars used on inappropriate ranges, alarms turned off, out of date charts, watchman using his phone or asleep, and so on. The equipment was perfectly capable of aiding a diligent sailor in executing his role if used as directed. But those are relatively "dumb" systems.

These are different circumstances, where the equipment is apparently a steaming pile of feces that can actively screw things up.

As an example of design failure, a racing yacht ran aground (might even have lost its kee, very bad!) a few years ago and the navigator was sacked. It transpired that the boat's chart plotter software didn't necessarily show small shallow regions (such as could give a danger of grounding) if it was at too small a scale (zoomed out, that is). Clearly, from a navigation point of view, the key question being asked by the navigator when zoomed out is "is this area safe for our passage?" which should be answered "yes", "no" or "maybe". By only showing a typical (safe) depth as the depth in that region, the chart plotter suggested that the area had sufficient depth and failed to inform the navigator that he needed to check these unfamilar waters at a larger scale, to confirm whether safe channels were available. I felt the navigator was perhaps harshly treated in being fired, but I guess the skipper/owner/manager (whoever it was) saw it as one of those absolute responsibilities: your job is to ensure the boat doesn't hit anything, you screwed up, you're fired. Or as the British Navy captain said after running his destroyer aground near Austrailia in 2002: "Just as the sun comes up in the morning, if you run your ship aground you get court martialled."

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