Ten U.S. sailors were missing and five injured after a guided-missile destroyer collided with an oil tanker Monday morning near Singapore, the second accident involving a ship from the Navy’s 7th Fleet in two months.
The John S. McCain was traveling east of the Strait of Malacca when it collided with the Liberian-flagged Alnic MC, the Navy said. The destroyer arrived at the Changi Naval Base in Singapore with a gaping hole that spread below its waterline.
The ship sustained “significant damage” to the hull, the Navy said, which led to flooding in some crew berths, as well as in the machinery and communications rooms. Damage control efforts by the crew halted further flooding, the Navy said..
The Alnic was struck in the front part of its hull but no crew members were injured, according to Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority.
Search-and-rescue operations were underway Monday, using Navy Seahawk helicopters and Ospreys as well as Singaporean tugboats and naval and coast guard vessels. The Singapore military transported four of the injured to the island, where they were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. The fifth sailor did not require further medical attention, the Navy said.
The Strait of Malacca, the narrow waterway between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is one of the world’s most congested shipping lanes. Much of Asia’s oil imports traverse the chokepoint on the way to the South China Sea, where China is building artificial islands in waters its neighbors also claim.
The collision came just months after one of the Navy’s deadliest accidents in years. Seven sailors were killed in June when the destroyer Fitzgerald collided with a massive container ship south of Japan.
The Navy issued a report Friday describing how the ocean poured through a hole and sent sailors scrambling in waist-deep water. The seven men drowned in their berths. The Navy relieved the Fitzgerald’s top two officers of their duties and disciplined other sailors.
Investigators are still trying to figure out how the two ships failed to see each other, given the modern technology aboard vessels — particularly a warship.
Both the McCain and the Fitzgerald are part of the Navy’s 7th Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan.
The incidents compound concerns about the safety record of Navy ships operating in the Pacific. In May, a Navy guided-missile cruiser, the Lake Champlain, collided with a South Korean fishing vessel, although no one was hurt. In January, another cruiser, the Antietam, ran aground and gushed oil into Tokyo Bay.
They also highlight the geopolitical tensions at play in the region. Earlier this month, China’s Foreign Ministry denounced the U.S. after the McCain passed close by an island in the South China Sea that China claims.
The state-run China Daily used the accident to note “the way U.S. warships tend to sail without observing maritime traffic rules and the sloppiness of their crews.”
The McCain, a 505-foot-long Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, was heading to Singapore on a routine port visit. The most recent photos on the McCain’s Facebook page show the crew playing cards, chatting and fishing off the deck as the sun sets over the Asia Pacific.
The Alnic, which stretches 600 feet, also intended to arrive in Singapore.
When asked by reporters about the collision, President Trump said, “That’s too bad.” He later tweeted “thoughts & prayers” for the sailors aboard the ship.
The McCain takes its name from Sen. John McCain’s father and grandfather, who both served as admirals in the Navy during World War II.
“Cindy & I are keeping America’s sailors aboard the USS John S McCain in our prayers tonight,” the Arizona Republican wrote on Twitter.
Aug. 21, 3:45 a.m.: This article was updated with additional details, including the ship’s damage and conditions of the injured.
9:45 p.m.: This article was updated with staff reporting.
This article was originally published on Aug. 20 at 7.20 p.m.