All US Navy Warships to Be Ordered a One-Day Pause

August 21, 2017 Updated: August 21, 2017

The chief of Navy operations is expected to order a one-day pause in operations of all U.S. warships around the globe to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the fleet’s operation following a second major collision, according to an advanced copy of the the chief’s statement obtained by CNN.

The forceful global order comes on the heels of a collision of the USS John S. McCain with a merchant vessel east of the Malacca Strait on Monday, Aug. 21.

“This is the second major collision in the last three months, and is the latest in a series of major incidents, particularly in the Pacific theater. This trend demands more forceful action,” a statement from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said.

The pause will happen over the course the next few weeks, with individual vessel commands deciding on the timing, the chief said.

A map shows the location where the Alnic MC merchant vessel came to a halt after a collision with the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain east of Singapore August 21, 2017.  REUTERS
The location where the Alnic MC merchant vessel came to a halt after a collision with the guided-missile destroyer the USS John S. McCain east of Singapore Aug. 21, 2017. (Reuters)

Ten U.S. sailors were missing after  the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker east of Singapore before dawn on Monday, tearing a hole beneath the waterline and flooding compartments that included a crew sleeping area, the U.S. Navy said.

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said there will be a wider investigation into U.S. naval operations after the collision between the guided-missile destroyer the USS John S. McCain and the tanker Alnic MC, the second involving a U.S. Navy destroyer and a merchant vessel in Asian waters in little more than two months.

The ships collided while the U.S. warship was heading to Singapore for a routine port call, the Navy said in a statement.

“Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft,” the Navy said. “There are currently 10 sailors missing and five injured.”

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen after a collision, in Singapore waters August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood
The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS John S. McCain after a collision in Singapore waters on Aug. 21, 2017. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters)

The destroyer had made its way to Singapore’s Changi Naval Base by Monday afternoon under its own power.

Significant damage to the hull had resulted in flooding to compartments, including crew berthing, machinery, and communications rooms, the Navy said, but crew members were able to stop the flooding.

Four of the injured were taken by helicopter to a hospital in Singapore with nonlife-threatening injuries. The fifth needed no further treatment.

The USS John S. McCain’s sister ship, the USS Fitzgerald, almost sank off the coast of Japan after it was struck by a Philippine container ship on June 17. The bodies of seven USS Fitzgerald sailors were found in a flooded berthing area.

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen after a collision, in Singapore waters August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood
The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS John S. McCain after a collision, in Singapore waters on Aug. 21, 2017. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters)

Mattis told reporters in Amman, Jordan, there would be a broader investigation into U.S. naval operations.

“The chief of naval operations’ broader inquiry will look at all related accidents at sea, that sort of thing. He is going to look at all factors, not just the immediate ones,” he said.

“Our primary concern at this point is the safety of the crew and ship – that is the focus of our efforts at the scene. We will continue to provide updates as events unfold and we learn more. I am also directing a comprehensive review into all potential factors contributing to these incidents,” said Richardson on his Naval Operations Facebook page.

Collisions between warships and other large vessels are extremely rare, with naval historians going back more than 50 years to find a similar incident.

A search-and-rescue mission was underway for the sailors missing from the USS John S. McCain involving Singaporean ships, helicopters, and tugs, as well as U.S. Navy aircraft.

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen after a collision, in Singapore waters August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood
The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS John S. McCain after a collision in Singapore waters on Aug. 21, 2017. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters)

Reuters video footage from the Singapore Strait showed an area of impact about 6 meters (20 ft) wide in the John S. McCain’s port side.

The U.S. Navy said the amphibious assault ship the USS America had arrived to provide messing and berthing for the crew of the USS John S. McCain. It would support the search for the missing and divers to assess the damage.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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