The commanding officers of USS John S McCain and USS Fitzgerald and others face negligent homicide charges relating to separate collisions with commercial shipping vessels in Asian waters in 2017.
A statement from the office of the Navy's Commmander, US 7th Fleet detailed the charges filed under the US' Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
According to the statement, the commanding officer of USS Fitzgerald along with two lieutenants and one lieutenant junior grade face charges of dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel and negligent homicide.
The commanding officer of USS John S McCain, too, faces charges of negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and hazarding a vessel, while the vessel's chief petty officer faces a charge of dereliction of duty.
UCMJ-based charges result in a preliminary Article 32 hearing that can then lead to court-martial proceedings.
The first collision in June 2017 – between USS Fitzgerald and container ship ACX Crystal – claimed the lives of seven US sailors and resulted in the firing of Fitzgerald’s commanding and executive officers.
In August, USS John S McCain collided with the Alnic MC tanker near Singapore, killing 10 US sailors and injuring five others. No one on board the tanker vessel was hurt.
In January, the USS Antietam ran aground near the US’ Yokosuka naval base in Japan, and in May the USS Lake Champlain had a minor collision with a South Korean fishing boat east of the Korean peninsula.
Following the John S McCain incident, the chief of naval operations ordered a fleetwide review of the US fleet in the Pacific. In response to questions about the fleetwide review, Admiral Swift addressed speculation about whether technical failure, negligence or cyber attacks were to blame for the mounting number of ship collisions in the region.
Admiral Swift said the collisions involving US Navy ships cannot be viewed in isolation and that it was the organisation’s goal to find out whether there is a common cause underlying the uptick.
A US Navy statement from 2017 said “It is evident the collision was preventable, the commanding officer exercised poor judgement, and the executive officer exercised poor leadership of the ship’s training programme.”