US Navy halts operations worldwide as search for 10 missing sailors continues

This August 21, US Navy photo shows the damage USS John S. McCain sustained as the ship arrives at Changi Naval Base, Singapore

As the search for the 10 missing USS John S. McCain sailors continues, the US chief of naval operations has ordered a pause in navy operations worldwide in order for fleet commanders to “assess practices”.

US Navy Adm. John Richardson directed the navy to take an “operational pause” in all of its fleets around the world, to allow fleet commanders to assess and review with their commands the fundamental practice to safe and effective operations.

He said he envisions the pause lasting “one to two days,” but said he is leaving the specifics to the fleet commanders.

“This is obviously an extremely serious incident and is the second such incident in a very short period of time, within inside of three months and very similar as well and is the last of a series of incidents in the Pacific fleet in particular,” the admiral said.

In addition to the operational pause, Richardson said he directed a more comprehensive review to find the contributing factors and root causes of the incidents.

To remind, 10 sailors are still missing after US destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with oil tanker Alnic MC east of the Strait of Malacca and Singapore on Monday, August 21.

Significant damage to the McCain’s hull resulted in flooding to nearby compartments, including crew berthing, machinery and communications rooms. Damage control efforts by the crew halted further flooding.

US Navy and Marine Corps divers joined the search for the missing sailors on Monday. Equipped with surface supplied air rigs, divers were to access sealed compartments located in damaged parts of the ship.

The incident came in the wake of another collision between a US destroyer and a merchant ship. On June 17, seven US Navy sailors lost their life when USS Fitzgerald collided with Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan.

The collision on Monday is also the fourth US Navy incident this year. On May 9, USS Champlain collided with a fishing vessel in the Sea of Japan while USS Antietam ran aground on January 31.

In response to the incidents, Richardson said he tasked Navy Adm. Phil Davidson, the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, to take charge of a comprehensive review that will include representation from throughout the Navy, as well as from other services and the private sector.

That review will look at the processes the Navy uses to train and certify the forward deployed forces in Japan. Another area for examination, as Richardson outlined, is how the Navy trains and certifies its surface warfare community, including tactical and navigational proficiency.

“My hope is that we will learn, continue to improve in the short term, validating that we are sound on the fundamentals and if not then we’ll take action to correct that, and then look at broader, more systemic issues that we may find through this comprehensive review,” Richardson said.

The comprehensive review is in addition to the investigations into the Fitzgerald and McCain, he added.

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