- - Thursday, August 24, 2017


As a former Navy enlisted (1950s) and naval officer (navigator and officer of the deck, 1960s), I am quite concerned by the recent collisions of our warships in Asian waters. We lost seven sailors in the collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a Philippine-flagged shipping vessel, and 10 in the collision of the USS John S. McCain with an oil tanker (“U.S. Navy admiral: USS John S. McCain, oil tanker collision may have been intentional,” Web, Aug. 21).

Many factors contribute to collisions between ships, including enemy acts, weather, fatigue, missed or erroneous ship-handling commands and equipment malfunctions. But the most common reason for collisions is human inattention to surrounding circumstances and relying solely on technology to keep a vessel safe. Many ships employ the latest technologies in ship handling, navigation and communication systems, but maritime personnel have to properly utilize these systems. They have to augment them with their training and skills.

When two ships approach each other they are supposed to abide by the “rules of the road.” The ship overtaking the other is burdened and has to maneuver to avoid the overtaken ship, usually turning to starboard or slowing down. When a ship approaches another ship on its starboard side, it becomes the burdened ship — and it has turn to starboard or port and pass under the stern of the other ship. If the ship is operating in a potentially difficult situation, the captain should be on the bridge maneuvering.

Hopefully the naval inquiries will determine why these ships collided with other vessels, and the Navy will implement corrective actions to improve ship-handling operations.


Londonderry, N.H.

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