SINGAPORE – Search and rescue efforts are under way for 10 missing sailors after a US warship collided with a merchant vessel east of Singapore on Monday morning.
The USS John S. McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, collided with the Alnic MC, the US 7th Fleet said in a statement.
The accident was reported at 5.24am Singapore time as the US Navy ship was making its way to Singapore for a routine visit. Its home port is Yokosuka in Japan.
Singapore authorities are working with the US Navy to conduct search and rescue efforts after the warship suffered damage, said the 7th Fleet. Apart from the 10 missing sailors, five personnel are injured, said the Navy in an update.
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The search efforts are being carried out north of Pedra Branca.
“Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft,” said the Navy. The ship is now sailing under its own power and heading to port, it said.
“In addition to tug boats out of Singapore, the Republic of Singapore Navy ship RSS Gallant (97), RSN helicopters and Police Coast Guard vessel Basking Shark (55) are currently in the area to render assistance,” said the 7th Fleet.
US aircraft MV-22s and SH-60s from USS America have also been deployed. Malaysia has also sent vessels to help with the search and rescue, its Navy chief said in a Twitter post.
Alnic MC has been listed on marine websites as a 30,040-tonne, 183m-long Liberian-flagged oil tanker. Owned by Greece’s Stealth Maritime, it was en route to Singapore from Pyeongtaek in South Korea.
The tanker was carrying nearly 12,000 tonnes of fuel oil, but there was no oil spill, a crew member told Reuters via phone.
“We are carrying 11,987 tonnes of fuel oil. There is no oil spill. We were carrying fuel oil from Taiwan to discharge to Singapore … We are proceeding to Raffles Reserved Anchorage where the owners will investigate the matter. There was some damage to the valve,” the crew member who did not want to be identified, told Reuters via telephone.
The US Navy said the extent of damage to USS John S McCain and personnel injuries are being determined, and the incident will be investigated. It has set up an emergency family assistance centre for family members of the ship’s personnel.
The USS John S McCain only recently conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation, sailing within about 6 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, an artificially built-up land mass in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
The accident comes two months after seven US sailors died when a US destroyer, USS Fitzgerald, collided with a Philippine-flagged cargo ship off the Japanese coast. It is the third 7th Fleet ship to be involved in a serious accident this year. In January, the USS Antietam ran aground, dumping 1,100 gallons of hydraulic fluid into Tokyo Bay.
The commanding officers of both ships were relived from their duties.