The U.S. Navy will take a one-day operational pause in the coming weeks to “ensure we are taking all appropriate immediate measure to enhance the Navy’s safe and effective operation around the world,” Navy Adm. John Richardson, who is chief of naval operations, said on Monday.
The pause was announced on the same day officials said they were launching a broad investigation into the Pacific fleet in light of recent accidents, including Monday morning’s collision between the USS John S. McCain and a merchant ship in the waters of Southeast Asia.
Ten sailors remained missing Monday, hours after the USS John S. McCain, a guided missile destroyer, and the 600-foot Alnic MC collided off the coast of Singapore, Navy officials said. Five other sailors were injured.
A search for the missing sailors was ongoing Monday.
"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,” Richardson said in a video statement released Monday. “This trend demands more forceful action.”
The USS John S. McCain, named for Republican Sen. John McCain’s father and grandfather, who were both Navy admirals, was pulled on Monday evening to Changi Naval Base in Singapore. The crash left the ship with significant hull damage, allowing water to flood into nearby compartments, naval officials said.
“I don't want to speculate how the incident happened, but this area -- it's a busy area, considering the two vessels are about to enter the traffic separation scheme,” said Adm. Datuk Zulkifili Abu Bakarthe, head of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, according to The Navy Times.
The newspaper reported that about 80,000 vessels travel the strait each year.
A defense official told The Associated Press earlier Monday that Richardson directed Adm. Phil Davidson, head of the Navy’s Fleet Forces, to lead the investigation.
The unnamed official told the AP that “Richardson wants to ensure there aren’t bigger problems that may be masked by the high pace of ship operations in the Pacific region.”
Richardson said the investigation would include “trends in operational tempo, performance, maintenance, equipment and personnel,” along with “surface warfare training and career development, including tactical and navigational proficiency.”
Monday’s crash was the second major collision involving a U.S. Navy warship from the 7th Fleet in two months, according to The Navy Times. It is the fourth accident involving a naval vessel in the Pacific this year, according to The Washington Post.
Seven sailors died and three others were injured on June 17 when a merchant vessel and the USS Fitzgerald collided in the Philippine Sea, about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. Officials determined that the collision was avoidable and dismissed the ship’s commanding officer, executive officer and command master chief after the crash.