The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) [Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer] has arrived at Changi Naval Base following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Strait of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21 (local date).

The collision was reported at 6:24 a.m. Japan Standard Time. Significant damage to the hull resulted in flooding to nearby compartments, including crew berthing, machinery, and communications rooms. Damage control efforts by the crew halted further flooding.

There are currently 10 Sailors missing and five injured. Four of the injured were medically evacuated by a Singapore Armed Forces helicopter to a hospital in Singapore for non-life threatening injuries. The fifth injured Sailor does not require further medical attention.

Search and rescue efforts continue in coordination with local authorities. The Republic of Singapore Fearless-class patrol ships RSS Gallant (97), RSS Resilience (82), and Singaporean Police Coast Guard vessel Basking Shark (55) are in the area rendering assistance.

Additionally, MH-60S helicopters and MV-22 Ospreys from the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) are in the area providing search and rescue assistance.

Alnic MC is a Liberian-flagged 600-foot oil and chemical tanker with a gross tonnage of 30,000.

Source: U.S. Navy 7th Fleet

Analysis: This is the second collision involving a U.S. Navy warship and a commercial vessel, and also the second one involving a warship assigned to the 7th Fleet. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.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.

It’s likely the John S. McCain’s commander, Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez, will be relieved as well, given the Navy’s history of disciplining its ship captains who are involved in this kind of incident. But the more important questions the Navy brass [and the Pentagon — and President Donald J. Trump] will likely be asking are: Why have there been two collisions involving U.S. Navy warships and commercial vessels in such a short period of time, and why have both of them occurred within the 7th Fleet? 

The Navy had better find some answers and fast; having two of its destroyers out of action severely limits U.S. naval operations at a time when tensions around the world, and especially in the Pacific — where the 7th Fleet operates — are high. In addition, the McCain and Fitzgerald field the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, vital as part of U.S. naval assets deployed to counter North Korean ballistic missiles.