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What Is Wrong With These People? — Why Now?
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What Is Wrong With These People?

I see people linking to the Washington Post for the story about a US Navy vessel colliding with an oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, but they don’t understand the situation.

It was time to check with an Old Salt, Rick Spilman, for some facts : “The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Porter collided with the Japanese owned, Panamanian flag, Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) M/V Otowasan in the the Strait of Hormuz at around 1 am Sunday, local time.”

See, now we know happened. There are a lot sizes when it comes to ‘tankers’, and this vessel was the second largest type. The US destroyer is at fault. There is nothing that the tanker could have done that wouldn’t have been easily avoided by the destroyer. Because of the narrowness of the channel through the Strait, the tankers risk running aground if they don’t stay on the prescribed line.

Fortunately no one was injured, but there will be a huge repair bill, so I assume the Navy will relieve the captain of the destroyer and the bridge crew will probably be looking for new careers. The Strait of Hormuz is no place for amateurs.


1 Badtux { 08.14.12 at 12:32 am }

Furthermore, it’s impossible to collide with another vessel if you’re staying in your lane. There are two parallel shipping lanes, one inbound, one outbound. They are dredged and are some distance apart. Between them is a couple of lines of buoys and no dredging. If you are a tanker in your proper outbound lane, you can’t move out of your lane, it’s the only place deep enough for your tanker once you move into the Strait. You can slow down, or you can speed up, but you’re a *tanker* — you can’t do either one very fast.

Now, one problem is that the inbound lane is on the Iranian side of the Strait and the Iranians tend to get a bit feisty and buzz the Americans with speedboats when Americans transit it, but that’s just how it is. Yeppers, that tin can captain will definitely have a new billet tomorrow… too bad they don’t have KP anymore, slicing potatoes is probably the most responsibility the Navy would ever give him in the future.

2 Bryan { 08.14.12 at 8:00 pm }

Given the wide separation between the lanes, the destroyer must have been trying to pass the tanker or totally missed the directional buoys. In theory there is room to pass in some areas of the channel, but there are rocks and such in other areas which is why it is supposed to be single-file.

Like Spilman noted, the destroyer has all kinds of radar and sonar to know where things are, so it is incredibly stupid of them to run into anything, especially something as big as a VLCC.

3 Kryten42 { 08.16.12 at 11:42 am }

” the destroyer has all kinds of radar and sonar to know where things are, so it is incredibly stupid of them to run into anything, especially something as big as a VLCC.”

Yep!! Exactly what I thought when I read about this in the local paper while I was in Hospital.

It’s all pretty strange. You can see from the AIS plot around the time of the collision the track the Otowasan took (unfortunately AIS doesn’t track military vessels)
AIS Ship Plot of Otowasan @ 1AM 8/12/12

Here is the US Navy 24hr weather report for the Straight:

It would seem that visibility wasn’t a big issue at the time.

Since the damage to the USS Porter is on the port side, It would seem that the Otowasan had right of way according to port-to-port rules. The AIS plot shows there were no other vessels in the vicinity, but doesn’t account for small boats or Military vessels.

If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say the Porter was trying to race around the Otowasan for some reason. *shrug*

Still, the Captain of the Porter (and probably some of the crew) can kiss their careers goodbye, especially given that the Otowasan was obviously using AIS, and the Porter should have been tracking her easily, even with Mk1 Eyeballs at night!

All very strange.

Came across this interesting story in Blomberg (slightly OT):

Iran’s NITC to Add 22 Very Large Crude Carriers to Tanker Fleet by 2013

That would mean Iran would have the second-largest oil-tanker company in the World. 🙂

4 Kryten42 { 08.16.12 at 12:40 pm }

Heh… Just for fun I downloaded the official PDF info sheet about the USS Porter from the Ship’s Navy site. It’s highly amusing reading in this context! LOL

USS Porter’s mission is to be prepared to conduct prompt, sustained combat operations at sea in support of national policy. She must as well be capable of operating within a Carrier Strike Group (CSG) and Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) in extreme threat environments, providing primary anti-air protection for the ships within that Strike Group. To accomplish this, Porter utilizes her various sensors to detect, classify and track hundreds of potential targets simultaneously in the air, on the surface and under the sea.

Porter’s Combat System is the most technologically advanced in the world, capable of projecting power both at sea and ashore with precision and deadly accuracy. A key component to the ship’s ability to perform its mission is the Aegis Weapon System (AWS). AWS consists of a number of sub-systems that include the ship’s primary air radar, the AN/SPY1D, and the Standard Missile (SM). These two components, along with 7 other fire control, command and decision, and training elements compose the most effective air defense system in the world. Capable of tracking hundreds of contacts imultaneously, the AWS can engage multiple threats at maximum range without any operator intervention.

As the first Flight IIA Aegis Destroyer, Porter looks and performs quite differently than previous ships in the class. The addition of a helicopter hangar and the upgraded baseline 6.1 Aegis Combat System are two of the most significant –modifications. Other alterations include: raised aft facing AN/SPY-1D arrays, increased missile capacity from 90 to 96 missiles, inclusion of a Recovery, Assist, Securing, and Traversing (RAST) System to assist in the recovery of SH-60 helicopters during inclement weather and high sea states, Kingfisher Mine Detection System, and the addition of a stern sheet trim tab hydrostatically designed to allow Porter to travel at higher speeds with less engineering plant output.

It is the officers and enlisted crew of Porter that make her the finest ship in the Fleet. The crew is comprised of highly trained, highly motivated professionals committed to excellence and devoted to serving their country. As a unified team, the crew of the Porter are ready now to meet any threat to our nation by another unfortunate enough to dare our skill, conviction, and resolve.

Ohhhh… The comments I could make!!! 😈

5 Badtux { 08.16.12 at 5:17 pm }

As a unified team, the crew of the Porter are ready now to meet any threat to our nation

But not, apparently, ready for the threat of large slow oil tankers transiting a well-marked channel :twisted:.

6 Bryan { 08.16.12 at 8:17 pm }

According to some of those commenting on the Old Salt post, the US Navy has a habit of passing other vessels in the Strait at high speed and relatively close. Anything as big as that tanker has to push a lot of water out of the way, which would affect any vessel trying to pass. You see it all the time with the “personal water craft” [sea-motorcycles] passing the 10-meter+ powerboats on the bayou and bay locally. The bow waves and wakes can bounce them around.

I guess we should be grateful that they didn’t hit a nuclear carrier, and that no one was injured, but it doesn’t inspire confidence in Navy standards.