Navy Admiral: Catastrophic Collisions Result From Accumulation of Small Errors


Photo: Adm. John Richardson (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Armando Gonzales/Released
Navy officials are not ready to say what is causing U.S. Navy destroyers to collide with merchant vessels, but at a hearing on Tuesday, they spoke in general terms about the human factor:
“These catastrophes really result from the accumulation of a number of small errors that build up and line up eventually to create a sequence that results in an incident of this magnitude,” Admiral John Richardson told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Last month, ten sailors died when the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in a shipping channel off the coast of Singapore. And in June, seven sailors died when the USS Fitzgerald ran into a cargo ship in the Sea of Japan.
Since the recent collisions, the Navy has directed its ships to turn on their Automatic Identification Systems, particularly in heavily trafficked areas, so other ships will know the U.S. Navy is in the area.
Richardson also explained that for safety reasons, there are many redundancies on the bridge of an advanced Navy destroyer:
“The watch team will be on the order of ten people. About four of those will be officers — the officer of the deck, the junior officer of the deck, officer of the watch, conning officer. There’ll be two lookouts, there’ll be a quartermaster. And so there’s plenty of people involved in this seamanship and navigation on the bridge.
“They’re supported by a team in the combat information center, which is also looking at electronic displays; they don’t have windows, but they’re backing them up,” Richardson said.  “And with respect to the technology, all critical systems, such as navigation, steering, and propulsion, all have back-up systems,” Richardson added.


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