String of Naval Collisions Sees Fleet Commander Relieved of DutyCommander of Naval Fleet Relieved of Duty After Collisionsby Eric Schmitt and Richard C. Paddock of The New York TimesAUG. 22, 2017
WASHINGTON — Two days after ordering a rare suspension of ship operations worldwide
the Navy relieved the commander of the fleet that had sustained four accidents in Asia and the deaths of more than a dozen sailors this year. Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, the head of the Seventh Fleet, the Navy’s largest overseas, was removed Wednesday in connection with the four accidents since January, including two fatal collisions in the past two months, according to a statement by the Navy. The most recent collision occurred east of Singapore between the McCain and the Alnic MC, a Liberian-registered tanker about three times its size.
The admiral’s removal comes as the Navy is preparing to conduct an extremely rare suspension of ship operations worldwide for a day or two in the next week to review safety and operational procedures. More broadly, Navy officials are also investigating the role that training, manning and crew communications may have played in the accidents.
On Wednesday, the search for the missing sailors continued aboard the ship and at sea. The Navy said it was widening the sea search area with the passage of time. Divers have found remains of missing American sailors in the flooded compartments of the Navy destroyer John S. McCain, which collided with an oil tanker on Monday off the coast of Singapore. Ships and aircraft from five nations have been searching for the sailors near the site of the collision, in waters claimed by both Malaysia and Singapore. On Tuesday afternoon, the White House issued a statement expressing “great sadness” over the deaths of the sailors aboard the McCain.
The collision was the second in two months involving a destroyer from the Seventh Fleet, which is based in Yokosuka, Japan. In June, the destroyer Fitzgerald collided with a cargo ship off Japan. Soon afterward, searchers found the bodies of seven missing sailors in its flooded berthing compartments. After the collision on Monday, Adm. John Richardson, the Navy’s top officer, announced that all 277 Navy ships worldwide would take an “operational pause” to review basic seamanship, teamwork and other “fundamentals.”