At least 10 U.S. sailors are missing after the USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker early Monday east of Singapore and the Strait of Malacca, the second collision involving a ship from the Navy’s 7th feet in the Pacific in two months. The Navy said five other sailors were hurt in the collision involving the guided-missile destroyer. It had been heading to Singapore for a routine port visit after last week conducting a sensitive freedom of navigation operation by sailing near one of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the oil and chemical tanker Alnic MC sustained damage or casualties. The McCain was damaged on its port side aft, or left rear, from the accident that happened at 5:24 a.m., the Navy’s 7th Fleet said, but was heading to port under its own power. Malaysia’s navy chief Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin tweeted that two ships, as well as aircraft from its navy and air force, have been deployed to help look for the missing U.S. sailors. The Navy said Osprey aircraft and Seahawk helicopters from the USS America were assisting in the search. It also said tugboats and Singaporean naval and coast guard vessels were in the area to render assistance.
The Strait of Malacca is a narrow and busy body of water between Malaysia to the northeast and Indonesia to the southwest, with the city-state of Singapore at the tip of the Malay Peninsula. The collision is 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 hit each other in waters off Japan. The Fitzgerald’s captain was relieved of 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 ship is 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 to the Navy’s website. The warship is 154 meters (505 feet) in length. The Alnic MC is a 183-meter (600-foot) oil and chemical tanker.