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Peril on the Sea

July/August 2017 | view this story  as a .pdf

The USS Fitzgerald, built at Bath Iron Works, suffers a deadly collision in Japan that hits close to home. 

By Blair Best

JA17-Peril-on-the-SeaOn a clear early morning just weeks ago, US Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62), was traveling from her home port in Yokosuka with her American crew when she was blindsided by a collision with the ACX Crystal, a Philippine merchant container ship. Almost three times the size of the destroyer–weighing in at over 29,000 tons–the Crystal struck Fitzgerald with her bow, penetrating the starboard side of the Navy ship below her waterline. The collision claimed the lives of seven Navy sailors. 

The news sent shock waves throughout America–felt keenly in Bath, where the USS Fitzgerald was built and launched by Bath Iron Works in 1994. The Daily Mail places the ship’s cost at $1.4 billion. At Byrnes’ Irish Pub, located near to the shipyard, locals and boat builders have been discussing the event at length. “Everyone is saying how sad it is,” a bartender tells us. “Regulars have asked active Navy sailors what they think happened. They just say they’re not allowed to comment.” 

“It’s a tragedy,” says Nathan Gould, Harbormaster of Bath. “There hasn’t yet been an official report about the incident. I know that the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. military, and the Japanese Coast Guard are all doing different investigations. At this point, it’s hard to say anything conclusive.” 

What about the fate of the ship? “We don’t know if the Navy will decide to bring Fitzgerald back to Bath for repairs,” Gould says. “It’s a possibility since this is where she was built. Or they may decide to just scrap the ship. But I can tell you the way the ship was designed, and the way in which the crew was trained, are what saved more loss of life. Fitzgerald was designed well, with different compartments that the crew was able to close off in order to stop further flooding. What do I think happened? I’ve read many online theories, but there’s really no way of knowing unless you were there.” 

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