Nation

10 sailors missing, 5 injured after USS John S. McCain collides with merchant ship

The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen with a hole on its portside after a collision with an oil tanker outside Changi naval base in Singapore on Monday.

ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images

The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen with a hole on its portside after a collision with an oil tanker outside Changi naval base in Singapore on Monday.

SINGAPORE — The US Navy’s John S. McCain guided missile destroyer docked Monday at Singapore’s naval base with ‘‘significant damage’’ to its hull after an early morning collision with an oil tanker, as vessels from several nations searched for 10 missing US sailors.

The collision east of Singapore between the destroyer and the 600-foot Alnic MC, which has recent safety violations, was the second involving a ship from the US Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months.

Advertisement

Vessels and aircraft from the US, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia are searching for the missing sailors. Four sailors were evacuated by a Singaporean navy helicopter to a hospital in the city-state for treatment of non-life threatening injuries, the Navy said. A fifth injured sailor did not require further medical attention.

The McCain had been heading to Singapore on a routine port visit after conducting a sensitive freedom-of-navigation operation last week by sailing near one of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea.

Get Ground Game in your inbox:
Daily updates and analysis on national politics from James Pindell.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

The Navy’s 7th Fleet said damage to the McCain’s hull flooded adjacent compartments including crew berths, machinery and communications rooms. A damage control response prevented further flooding, it said.

The destroyer was damaged on its port side aft, or left rear, in the 5:24 a.m. collision but headed to port under its own power.

A photo tweeted by Malaysian navy chief Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin showed a gaping hole in the McCain’s side near the waterline. Janes, a defense industry publication, estimated the hull rupture was 10 feet wide.

Advertisement

One of the injured sailors, Operations Specialist 2nd Class Navin Ramdhun, posted a Facebook message telling family and friends he was OK and awaiting surgery for an arm injury.

He said in a message that he couldn’t say what happened. ‘‘I was actually sleeping at that time. Not entirely sure.’’

The Singapore government said no crew were injured on the Liberian-flagged Alnic, which sustained damage to a compartment at the front of the ship some 23 feet above its waterline. There were no reports of a chemical or oil spill.

Singapore sent tugboats and naval and coast guard vessels to search for the missing sailors and Indonesia said it sent two warships. Malaysia said two ships as well as aircraft from its navy and air force were helping with the search, and the USS America deployed Osprey aircraft and Seahawk helicopters.

There was no immediate explanation for the collision, and the Navy said an investigation would be conducted. Singapore, at the southernmost tip of the Malay Peninsula, is one of the world’s busiest ports and a US ally, with its naval base regularly visited by American warships.

The collision was the second involving a ship from the Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Director General, Maritime Admiral Zulkifli Abu Bakar gestured at a screen projection of the damaged of the US guided-missile destroyer USS John S McCain.

AHMAD YUSNI/European PressPhoto Agency

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Director General, Maritime Admiral Zulkifli Abu Bakar gestured at a screen projection of the damaged of the US guided-missile destroyer USS John S McCain.

The Fitzgerald’s captain was relieved of his command and other sailors were being punished after the Navy found poor seamanship and flaws in keeping watch contributed to the collision, the Navy announced last week. An investigation into how and why the Fitzgerald collided with the other ship was not finished, but enough details were known to take those actions, the Navy said.

The Greek owner of the tanker, Stealth Maritime Corp. S.A., replaced its website with a notice that says it is cooperating with the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore’s investigation and with ‘‘other responding agencies.’’ It says ‘‘thoughts and prayers are with the families of the missing US Navy sailors.’’

An official database for ports in Asia shows the Alnic was last inspected in the Chinese port of Dongying on July 29 and had one document deficiency, one fire safety deficiency and two safety of navigation problems.

The database doesn’t go into details and the problems were apparently not serious enough for the Liberian-flagged vessel to be detained by the port authority.

President Trump expressed concern for the McCain’s crew.

Trump returned to Washington on Sunday night from his New Jersey golf club. When reporters shouted questions to him about the McCain, he responded, ‘‘That’s too bad.’’

About two hours later, Trump tweeted that ‘‘thoughts and prayers’’ are with the McCain’s sailors as search and rescue efforts continue.

The 505-foot destroyer is named after US Senator John McCain’s father and grandfather, who were both US admirals. It’s based at the 7th Fleet’s homeport of Yokosuka, Japan. It was commissioned in 1994 and has a crew of 23 officers, 24 chief petty officers and 291 enlisted sailors, according the Navy’s website.

McCain said on Twitter that he and his wife, Cindy, are ‘‘keeping America’s sailors aboard the USS John S McCain in our prayers tonight — appreciate the work of search & rescue crews.’’

Stephen Wright reported from Bangkok. Associated Press writers Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.
Loading comments...
Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.