June 26, 2017

The leaked statement from the ACX Crystal's Captain is an easily disproven lie.

USS Fitzgerald (MMSI:338839000 Callsign:NFTZ)
(June 27th, 2o017 edit; punctuation, time of distress call, age of ship)
Tim Kelly of Reuters reports that Captain Ronald Advincula of the AXC Crystal 
(IMO:9360611) made a statement to the ships's owner, Dainichi Investment Corporation, in which he stated (not a direct quote of Ronald Advincula):
"The container ship steered hard to starboard (right) to avoid the warship, but hit the Fitzgerald 10 minutes later at 1:30 a.m."
-Tim Kelly, Reuters, paraphrasing the Captain of the ACX Crystal.
Tim went on to say "Reuters was not able to independently verify the account" I'm not sure if that's akin to saying he didn't have time to look it up, or they could find no evidence to support the claim. In such cases I'd really rather they say flat out that the statement is a complete fabrication based on the available evidence, as is the case here. Please review the MarineTraffic.com derived data I published on June 17th (in this blog post) and I have included below again. Each dot can be clicked on for the precise time, position, and speed of the ACX Crystal. For a blow-by-blow description of the events (as I interpret them) from the AIS data, please see my previous blog post.

From the data below it is clear to me the statement from the captain of the ACX Crystal is complete fiction, and quite possibly the actions of someone who knows they are guilty of gross negligence causing the death of 7 American sailors.  There is no missing 10 minute chunk of time before the collision at 01:30am(16:30Z); I believe his statement is completely made up to try and save his own hide.

I maintain that there is no evidence to suggest anyone was on the bridge between 01:30am(16:30Z) and 01:46am(16:46Z).  It took ~16 minutes, after the collision, for someone to turn off the autopilot and start to slow the ACX Crystal down before a hard turn to port, making a "U Turn", and heading back to the site of the collision, and making the initial distress call on behalf of the USS Fitzgerald at ~2:25am(17:25Z).

Below you have the MarineTraffic.com AIS data, on a Google Fusion Tables generated map, that you can draw your own conclusions from.  For a blow by blow description of these moments my June 17th blog post is holding up pretty well to the test of time, so far, I think.

Additional details about the ship reported by MarineLog.com confirm the captain's name, that there were 20 crew, and ship's specifications. Also of note; the ship was relatively new, built in 2008, therefore would be outfitted with modern navigational radar and communications systems. I mention this because there's such a variety of ships on the sea, it's worth noting this is one of the more modern ship, not an old rusty hulk with a consumer-grade GPS leaning on the window.


  1. I understand that recollections can be imperfect and that the Reuters account may also somewhat misstate what the Crystal captain actually said, and that the Crystal captain may have a reason to lie, but assuming, just for the sake of argument that it's true, then that would say that the hard starboard turn at 16:30 UTC was not the collision, but the avoidance of a collision between the ships.
    The Crystal then turns to back to port and resumes the 070 heading by 16:40 UTC. Notice that after that time there is another slight course change to 056 heading. Could that be the result of a glancing collision with the warship?
    This would be an incredible failing, as given both ships just avoided a collision 10 minutes before, they both somehow lost situational awareness again and stumbled into each other's path for the actual collision, something that defies explanation even more than what's currently thought, but is that that somehow possible?
    Linked below is the Crystal course info from MarineTraffic.com

  2. If there was a bridge crew in place on the Crystal, why did it take so long to turn around? If there was a crew in place wouldn't you take a lat/long of where the collision happened? The return path seems as if it was close to a reciprocal heading from the original 070 heading. If the Crystal didnt have a crew in place they wouldn't know where the collision happened, they just turned around and went looking. After the 17:38 point (end of the return track) it appears that they then saw the DIW Fitz and turned sharply to the southwest to intercept. If the Crystal knew where it happened they would have gone straight back and wouldnt have taken the northern course and then turned sharply to go to the Fitz. The Crystal Captain didnt mention trying to use the ship to ship radio which would have been recorded, but they used lights and the horn that wouldnt have any record.

    1. ACX Crystal is a pretty new ship (2008) so I'd expect they would have a relatively modern nav radar and GPS track of where they were; once they picked up what they hit on radar, I bet they could sail toward it a lot easier. Horn wasn't mentioned, but you're right, they should have used the horn, as well as radio. It would be nice to find someone captured and recorded Marine VHF 16 traffic from this. Releasing it with time-stamps would be grand.

  3. "The container ship steered hard to starboard to avoid the warship......." the only hard starboard turn occurs around 1627/1630/1633 and is an approximate 47 degree course change in approximately 3 minutes (88 to 135) or an approximate 65 degree course change in 6 minutes(70 to 135 degree to the south) ".....but hit the warship 10 minutes later." 10 minutes later at approximately 1640, the Crystal has basically reestablished her 070 base course and is making 15+kts.
    If the Captain's statement was true, had he simply maintained course and speed, he would have missed the Fitzgerald........ yes Steffan, I'd agree with you 100%+ the Captain of the Crystal is pretty much a 1st class prevaricator.

  4. Sailorman here..
    OR it could be the 10 mins was miss reported or the Captain miss spoke or the leaker mangled the statement or... Leaving that detail, 10 minutes, aside, he is stating he saw the Fitz and made an evasive maneuver. We will see how that core truth (or not) holds up.

    1. Doesn't seem like a doc from the shipping company would have mixed up the details, but he certainly has every reason to lie, as he's the one on the hot seat. There is no time in which he could have made that evasive manoeuvre according to the AIS information, and it doesn't add up with the evidence of continued Autopilot use. Autopilot was still on for 15 minutes after the collision, proven by accelerating out of the accident.
      I hope they release the entire reports and don't censor the crap of them.

  5. The key for me is that according to AIS, there were very few contacts within a 5 mile radius of the Crystal when she started doing her crazy maneuvers. Only Fitz and the Wan hai 266 were within that radius. And there were only three total ships within 8 miles. The Fitz, the Wan hai 266, and Maersk Evora. So the contact environment was "light" in my opinion. Ship's don't collide under these circumstances unless there is a major failing on the part of one or both parties. For the OOD on Fitz to suddenly turn onto the path of the Crystal is a bit unusual given the light amount of contacts. I can see it happening in a high contact environment. That was the case of the USS Porter in 2012. The CO turns sharply to avoid one contact only to find him in the sights of another larger contact that he cannot avoid. Here, there was plenty of open ocean in which to maneuver. This tells us that we are still missing a lot of material facts.

    1. https://s1.postimg.org/o2p4xnexr/Wan_Hai_track.png

      Uncritically accepting all published testimony & AIS data:

      (1) the FITZ had been paralleling the ACX due eastwards for quite some time prior to collision
      (2) the FITZ was sited at a relative distance & bearing of 3nm @ 40deg from the ACX at 1:15am
      (3) the ACX made a slight turn northeastwards onto a 70deg heading between 1:18-1:20am
      (4) the FITZ made a sudden turn around 1:20am, onto a collision course with the ACX, and remained thereon for the duration
      (5) the WAN HAI made a slight turn around 1:20am, onto its own 70deg heading

      Co-plotting all the information, a consistent story arises. Around 1:20am, the FITZ detected that the WAN HAI had turned onto a (near) collision course. The FITZ took avoidance action, cutting quickly in front of the WAN HAI, which then passed safely astern. Perhaps the FITZ's stern lookout remained fixated on the looming WAN HAI?

      However, the FITZ was now cutting across a major, large-vessel, shipping lane. The FITZ's approximately 130deg heading put the ACX on a "CBDR" collision course. If so, then it was the STARBOARD lookout who could have been more diligent.

      According to this picture, the relative approach angle was initially 130-70=60deg. But the final collision impact angle was closer to 30deg. So the wildly evasive action of the ACX Captain, throwing his vessel into full reverse & hard-to-starboard -- possibly in conjunction with a corresponding last second action from the FITZ -- was apparently partially effective in reducing relative impact speeds & angles.

  6. There are at least two statements attributed to the Crystal's Captain:
    1) the ACX Crystal had signaled with flashing lights after the Fitzgerald "suddenly" steamed on to a course to cross its path.
    2) According to Jiji Press news agency, the ACX Crystal captain said his ship was “sailing in the same direction as the U.S. destroyer and then collided.”

    Are these statements contradictory?

    1. Don't think so... if they're on a parallel course, then one cuts in front, that sounds like the two statements are on the same page. I still think he's making it up entirely, but I think those two statements still jive...

    2. Certainly believable they were initially on parallel courses. What the Captain of the Crystal may have taken as the Fitzgerald changing course was the 16 or so degree course change to port taken by Crystal 10-14 minutes before the collision, that placed the two vessels on a collision course.

  7. Sailorman here,

    Stan, I think you have it right. Or as right as this partial info can be. Still does not explain why Fitz AIS did not alert to this situation.

  8. Well, it's been over 40 years since I stood a CIC watch, needless to say, AIS wasn't a part of our environment.
    All our plots (i.e., CPA) were accomplished using pencil, paper plotting sheets, plotter, clock and a SPA-25 radar repeater (PPI) for manual determination of range and bearing of the target for at least 2 points. I'd like to think that 40 years later, much of this has been automated but haven't been able to find specific information to define the capabilities of the new surface search systems.
    One of the data sheets I've read stated that the AIS information is integrated into the SPS-73 display, which, if the systems were fully functional (the AIS data is received by another "box" and supplied to the SPS-73) that the Crystal's course change should be identified on the display.
    However, it also leads to the question of how, or if, the "rules of the road" are implemented in the displays, how the data is filtered and then displayed.
    The main point of interest is whether or not Crystal was the overtaking vessel or the Fitzgerald was the crossing vessel.
    If the Crystal was overtaking, it is incumbent upon Crystal to avoid the Fitzgerald.
    Using the AIS course data, before the collision, Crystal's base course heading was 086, at that point, if the Fitzgerald's heading was 153.5 (or less) the Crystal was the overtaking vessel: being more than 2 points abaft of the Fitzgerld's starboard beam. With Crystal's course change to ~070, if Fitzgerald's heading was 137.5 (or less) Crystal remains the overtaking vessel.
    Depending on how the Fitzgerald's display's software incorporated the rules, a warning may or may not have been generated if Crystal was the give-way vessel.
    Based on AIS course/speed of the Crystal and assumed time of collision, had the Crystal not changed course, it would have been somewhere between ~.8 and ~1.2 miles (1600-2400 yards) from the collision point. This is noted as this distance may have been (based on night orders) an acceptable "CPA".

  9. Could you provide a Google fusion map for the most recent collision between the USS McCain and the ALNIC MC? It would be interesting to see the similarities or dis-similarities.

    1. Already done! ;)

      Well, as best as I could. As I wrote in the Twitter thread, there's very little data, and none from the time of collision.