Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Monday, January 08, 2007

USS Newport News Collides With Japanese Tanker

Updated information on the collision can be found here.

From a Fifth Fleet press release:
No US sailors or merchant crew were injured when a US Navy submarine and a commercial cargo vessel collided in the Strait of Hormuz on Monday evening January 8, 2007.
The collision between USS Newport News (SSN 750) and the Japanese-flagged motor vessel Mogamigawa occurred at approximately 10:15 in the evening (local time) in the strait of Hormuz while the submarine was transiting submerged.
Overall damage to the USS Newport News is being evaluated. The propulsion plant was unaffected by this collision.
The incident is currently under investigation.
USS Newport News is currently on a regularly scheduled deployment to the US Navy Central Command area of responsibility conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO).
Other reports are here and here, but none of the press reports I saw had picked up that the Newport News was submerged at the time of the collision. If so, this eliminates any question on who had the right of way (as we saw in the USS Philadelphia vs. M/V Yaso Aysen collision), since a submerged submarine is always required to stay clear of surface craft. I obviously haven't heard any details yet, but expect to hear people wondering why a submarine couldn't avoid such a huge ship as the M/V Mogamigawa (a 317m supertanker, pictured below):

Believe it or not, the bigger ships are sometimes more difficult to avoid; you can hear them, but the relatively greater depths of the propellers tends to muffle the sounds, and makes them sound further away (although reports that the Newport News hit the tanker's stern make it harder to explain away). Reports indicate that the tanker was outbound from the Gulf, so she would have been fully laden, and drawing about 100 feet at the keel. So, it's possible the Newport News wasn't even at PD, and just clipped the tanker during normal submerged ops.

I'll wait for more information before making any more guesses, but based on initial reports, I don't think this will be an easy one to defend for the Submarine Force. (And having it be a Japanese surface ship just makes it more embarrassing -- although JDS Asashio's recent collision with a Panamanian-flagged tanker may make the Japanese more understanding of the difficulties of avoiding surface traffic in a submarine.)

Staying at PD...

Update 2254 08 January: This Reuters story has confirmation from the tanker's owner that there were no injuries or oil leak from the M/V Mogamigawa, which is good news.

Update 2248 09 January: Not much new information today. I realized I mis-read the stats on M/V Mogamigawa, so while her "depth" is about 100 ft., her "draught" (draft) is only about 65 feet. Therefore, it's likely the Newport News was actually on her way to PD when she hit the tanker. There's also this "analysis" piece from ABC News that has such important information as, after mentioning that the sub was submerged, that "(t)he submarine's radar was probably turned off, and its sonar was most likely in a "passive mode" — set to pick up echoes from other vessels, but not to send out any signals of its own." I love how the press always seems surprised that submarines don't operate their radar underwater. (I also love the concept of passive sonar picking up "echoes" from other ships -- so what's generating the initial noise that "echoes" off the ship? Why not just say "noise"?)

Also, Lazlong has a good post on this collision, as well as the 2nd anniversary of the San Francisco grounding from one who was there.


Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

Also recall that if a big tanker like that has a bow aspect, you have a very large hull blocking all the prop and machinery noise as well - they can be suprisingly hard to hear.

1/09/2007 12:03 AM

Blogger lazlong said...

Just Damn...

1/09/2007 12:03 AM

Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

Or not. It was pointed out to me (in this Fark thread of all places) that this ABC article states the New. News ran up on the tanker from behind. This looks worse and worse for the N.N. - especially since no one wil cut them slack for being in one of the busiest parts of the ocean.

1/09/2007 12:13 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

PBS -- I was thinking about mentioning the bow null, but held off because I vaguely thought that it may have been one of the "we don't talk about it" things. After you posted, I decided to look for it, and found out it's discussed openly. That, plus I'd seen some of the reports that said the Newport News hit the tankers stern...

1/09/2007 12:17 AM

Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

You'd be surprised at what is out in the open nowadays. I'l admit, it still scares me, how much we just admit to.

Well, time for me to hit the rack - I'll be fielding message traffic about this in the morning.

1/09/2007 12:20 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adm. Rickover would (in fact he did, while he was in charge) stop the pattern of recurring bumblers with some high-profile, career adjustments, etc.

Apparently, it is very fortunate that our nuclear submarine fleet will shrink in the future as this will allow greater selectivity in sub CO's with leadership skills up to assuring point-A to point-B navigation. Just a thought.
- Mad Dog

1/09/2007 1:56 PM

Anonymous A Served XO said...

Mad Dog,
Please, please wait for some facts to come out before you say anything else you'll have to retract later.

1/09/2007 5:43 PM

Anonymous SeaBee750&709 said...

There is nothing "fortunate" about our shrinking submarine force. I agree that the standards for submariners are in decline. Something definitely needs to be done to improve the average sailor, as well as the command.

But these standards are being applied to everything on board. Admiral Rickover would have never allowed solid state devices, thyristors, microswitches, plasma displays or sailors with camera cell phones. Nor would he have allowed traitors and secret sellers to only get 9 years in prison. Nor would he allow commanders to stay in command who collide with undersea mountains, collide with fishing boats, collide with supertankers. He would have never allowed Navigators married to Russians with government ties. He would have never allowed a WEPS who enjoys recreational travel to the middle east twice each year. He would have never allowed an Engineer who ruined an Engine Room with a very dishonest RL-Division...

But he's dead and so is the 709. Just part of the "shrinking" force...

1/09/2007 5:56 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Relax, people...especially anyone who's casting stones without knowing what happened in detail, and most especially to ex Cold Warriors like myself who enjoyed much more "silent service" from the mainstream media than today's submariners do.

Submariners enjoy a special camaraderie for any number of reasons, but not least of which because we *know* what it's like out there on the front lines, and no one else does.

Yes, on our watch we had our share of great accomplishments...but also SNAFUs and out-and-out good luck beyond our wildest imagination, and that's the gosh-honest truth of it.

A few names come to mind in this regard...with regrets, the details obviously can't be discussed here, but for those who remember the huge but quiet successes and failures:

Atlanta, Pargo, Philadelpha, Memphis, Whale, Baton Rouge, Trepang, Dallas, Parche, Jacksonville, La Jolla, Halibut, Seawolf...and the list goes on and on. We could probably list each and every submarine here and be on the mark: they've each in their own special way been in either the "aw-s---" or "attaboy" category at some point in time.

Some of us, very much including myself, have had some particularly hair-raising experiences that by fate and God's will did NOT get as bad as they very well could have (in my case, involving a LNG tanker in extremely dense (rudder...what rudder?) fog in Long Island sound).

"Judge not lest ye be judged."

'Nuff said, fellas. We all know better than to put down the guys who have the watch.

1/09/2007 6:28 PM

Blogger Chap said...

Ever since I can remember, we have about one collision or grounding every year per coast or so. Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less, but right about one per.

Despite the lessons learned, nothing anyone has done--changing CO/XO selectivity, instituting more process pain, putting more guys on the waterfront, changing the training, changing the schools, changing the standards, different operating areas, missions, envelopes, risk assessments--has made a lick of difference in that single statistic. This is not a risk free life, and we've not found the key to making boats not go bonk yet.

One key point pounded into the heads of our commanders is that the collision and grounding lessons they learn are not from bad, or substandard, people. The people making these mistakes or having the bad things happen are just as good as anyone else on the waterfront. Sometimes it's a bad day; sometimes it's a systemic failure; sometimes it's the wrong guy's skill set in the wrong situation.

The above anonymous commenter is right in getting the Rickover fetishists to remember their time in the barrel wasn't all fresh fruits and vegetables. Remember your history, people; there are a lot of bonks that could be added to that list, and the people stories to make your toes curl were just as bad or worse back in the day since I can think of a Rick-era topper for every one of those examples...

1/09/2007 8:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former bubblehead who was involved in a collision(USS Drum in Hong Kong) as a quartermaster I think I can add some insight... See ya Capt., your command and career are gone... To Seabee750709, Skipper of San Fran got a bum rap... Old charts and squadron ops sent him on a course from hell... Victim of the old Navy tradtion of frying the old man...

1/09/2007 10:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Admiral Rickover would have never allowed solid state devices, thyristors, microswitches, plasma displays or sailors with camera cell phones. Nor would he have allowed traitors and secret sellers to only get 9 years in prison."


I don't know where that came from but...

I was one of those "cold warriors" who served during the late Rickover era (1970s), and I can tell you from first hand experience that Adm Rickover didn't have nearly as much control as all that.

For example - "...solid state devices, thyristors, microswitches,..."

Sorry - we had every one of those during that time. The more modern equipment for the 1970's was solid state, the older stuff was tubes, but Rickover certainly didn't prohibit anything solid state.

"...plasma screens.."

I don't think those were invented yet.

"...sailors with camera cell phones."

Cell phones weren't around back then, but cameras certainly were. Me and a lot of other submariners had everything from Polaroids to Kodak Instamatics, to 35mm, to more expensive rigs like Hasselblads or Mamiyas. I was never hassled by anyone for having a camera aboard. (But I *did* use discretion about where and how I snapped off a shot.)

"Nor would he have allowed traitors and secret sellers to only get 9 years in prison."

Well, the Walker spy ring flourished during the height of the Rickover era. That said, I don't believe that Adm Rickover had anything to do with, nor control over any part of that trial and sentencing.

1/10/2007 2:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting to read your comments. I haven't read your profiles, but based on your astute observations, it's obvious most of you are or were submariners.
I'm not a regular blogger, but having just left the NEWPORT NEWS in Bahrain after two and a half years, I felt obliged to read this thread (appearing in a Google search under the irksome title "The Stupid Shall Be Punished").
I support the well stated posts from 1/09/2007 6:28 PM and 1/09/2007 8:33 PM. Fight the urge to prematurely chastise. I'm not defending the act of ramming a supertanker, no one can, but the men onboard the NEWPORT NEWS are cut from the same stuff you and your crews were. They're good men, concerned about doing it right, safely carrying out the mission, and getting home to see their families and loved ones.
The submarine force will take this incident seriously and the crew, my shipmates, will suffer the consequences, as I'm sure they are now if not yet through formal administrative processes, then through their own professional embarassment and self-imposed critical analysis.
I'm glad no one was hurt, that the damage to the MOGAMIGAWA and the NEWPORT NEWS was minor, and hope that both vessels can be easily repaired and continue service to their respective countries. The best to my friends and shipmates in this most recent hardship among the many you have and will continue to strive against. Peace to the families and friends of both the MOGAMIGAWA and the NEWPORT NEWS, if any happen to read this post, know that your husbands, brothers, fathers, and friends are safe.

1/11/2007 3:33 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regardless of all the stone throwing and guessing what happened, the Skipper brought his ship inport with no loss of life. Mission accomplished Skipper well done, he is a Submarine Commanding Officer, he knows his fate the day he assumed Command, it's very easy for all the Admirals to sit in the crystal palace and throw stones, How often they forget the words " Captain to the conn" and the split second decisions they had to make in Command. All they do is sit behind there desk getting there morning cup coffee served by his flag cook saying that would never happen to me when I was in Command.
I say good job New prot News you didn't loose your ship and you didn't loose a life.

1/13/2007 7:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Jane's Navy International Site:

Tanker damage from collision suggests severely damaged US submarine

The Japanese company that owns the oil tanker Mogamigawa, which collided with the USN Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Newport said the damage of their tanker suggests severe damage also on side of the submarine ...

1/18/2007 4:01 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brass propellers...supertanker-borne or not...will not tend to hold up well when rubbed up against HY-80 steel. My money's on the tanker bearing the brunt of this one.

1/18/2007 4:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi guys, I don't want to "dumb down" conversation, but as I sit here today reading your blogs just for one little tidbit on what happened with my own husbands boat and am reading on how the silent service isn't quite so silent anymore I am frustrated. Not because I just have to know what went down, cause lets face it, as a wife whos husband had previously seen war from the ground the important thing is that the men, including my husband in this incedent are now safe, however I need some insight from someone on why it is okay for me to hear of this incident from the news and not my chain of support and why when I have spoken to them I am told I cannot be told over the phone since I am a out of town wife choosing to be with my family however I can look up these websight and watch certain news broadcasts for some insight. Now I don't claim to be the brain, that is my sailor, however, does it make sense that I can see info on the web or the TV for anyone to see, but my husband or a ombudsman is not allowed to tell me. I mean I learned they are in Baharain from you people. I know your going to say I wasn't issued, but I am here and sometimes that stuff is a slap in the face for what my children sacrifice. esspecially if they hear of their daddys boat crashing at school and not from me. Am I wrong?

1/22/2007 11:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To all those that are talking trash, you should shut it...I agree with what was said by anonymous on 13jan07 1926. There was not much time from the second of impact to the end of the incident....Captain saved our lives...perhaps none but those that actually can see the damage done to the ship can truly appreciate the man's actions once this little mishap occurred. What would you all be saying if me and my shipmates were at the bottom of the sea right now? Where is your patriotism????!!! While there are those that question the ability of my captain...Know this, there was never a man I met, that loved his job and country more....Ultimately it is his responsiblity....I accept that...but at the moment truth....he showed he could save his ship in time of need...That's what wearing dolphins on your chest is all about. Shame on you all who speak ill of my captain. I'd serve under his command again any day...

1/30/2007 8:52 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay I'm sitting here laughing because my husband was on the USS Newport News and they hit BOATS quite a bit!!!!!!! This was the first that was in the MEDIA spotlight. Accidents happen and their sonar isn't the best ..and when they resurface, it's almost like a human doing have that chance of hitting something. Maybe some money shouldn't be spent on REBUILDING the Iraq that we fucked up, but rather, putting some money into better sonar for our subs! :)

4/01/2008 11:53 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is reassuring. My son is on that boat right now. I hope that all is well with him and his shipmates.

10/30/2008 2:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Captain handled it well, yes, but I seem to remember a Senior Chief standing Dive really shining through. I was on the fathometer, and I'll never forget his great composure in that moment. And everyone did their job amazingly. BZ to all my shipmates who were there for that.

4/15/2009 7:11 AM

Anonymous Loretta said...

I found a lot of worthwhile info here!

9/14/2012 6:52 AM


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