I have been looking through the articles on the USS Fitzgerald collision. I can’t find anything about the conditions leading up to the collision.
It may sound odd to you landlubbers, but there are “rules of the road” on the water. They are meant to avoid exactly this kind of thing. COLREGS – International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972
Suffice it to say, that someone is responsible. It may be the case that both captains are responsible. (There isn’t always a vessel that has the “Right of way.”)
(a) Nothing in these Rules shall exonerate any vessel, or the owner, master or crew thereof, from the consequences of any neglect to comply with these Rules or of the neglect of any precaution which may be required by the ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case.
(b) In construing and complying with these Rules due regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision and to any special circumstances, including the limitations of the vessels involved, which may make a departure from these Rules necessary to avoid immediate danger
There is – especially among sailors (on sailboats) I’m sorry to say – the idea that some vessels have the “right of way.” While in some cases it may be that one boat is the “Stand on” vessel, and one the “Give way” vessel, in all situations, the skippers of both vessels have a duty to do everything to avoid a collision. The “limitations” of your average commercial container vessel, is that they don’t maneuver very well. It is best to stay the hell out of their way. Somebody failed to do something in this case. (See Rule 17 in the referenced document.)
It is hard to tell exactly what happened because reporters apparently know less about boats than they do about guns. But the bulk of the damage on the Fitzgerald SEEMS to be on the starboard side of the vessel. Though there is also damage on the port bow. If the initial collision hit the Fitzgerald on its own starboard side, that would imply that the US naval vessel was the “give way” vessel.
When two power-driven vessels are crossing so as to involve risk of collision, the vessel which has the other on her own starboard side shall keep out of the way and shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, avoid crossing ahead of the other vessel.
Inquiries will go on for months, unless I miss my guess.