Moon of Alabama – June 7, 2019
The accident prone U.S. 7th fleet is again in trouble. CNN sensationally reports of a near collision of a U.S. navy ship with a Russian navy one:
The United States and Russian navies are at odds over an apparent near collision in the Pacific Friday with each side blaming the other. The US and Russian warships came somewhere between 50 feet and 165 feet of each other, according to the two opposing reports, with both sides alleging their ships were forced to perform emergency maneuvers to avoid a collision.
“A Russian destroyer …. made an unsafe maneuver against USS Chancellorsville, closing to 50-100 feet, putting the safety of her crew and ship at risk,” US Navy spokesman Cmdr. Clayton Doss told CNN in a statement.
“This unsafe action forced Chancellorsville to execute all engines back full and to maneuver to avoid collision,” Doss said.
The US guided-missile cruiser was traveling in a straight line and trying to recover its helicopter when the incident occurred, he said. “We consider Russia’s actions during this interaction as unsafe and unprofessional,” Doss said.
There are international nautical rules that apply to any ship at sea. Those rules give no special right to any ship that is traveling in a straight line or tries to recover a helicopter.
The Russian navy says that its ship had the right of way and that the U.S. ship hindered its passage:
Russia has voiced a protest to the US command after its guided-missile cruiser hindered the passage of the Admiral Vinogradov anti-submarine destroyer some 50 meters in front of it, forcing the vessel to perform a dangerous maneuver, the Pacific Fleet’s press service told reporters on Friday.
The incident occurred at 6.35 a.m. Moscow Time in the southeastern part of the East China Sea, when a task force of the Russian Pacific Fleet and a US carrier strike group were heading in parallel directions. “The US cruiser Chancellorsville suddenly changed its course and crossed the Admiral Vinogradov destroyer’s course some 50 meters away from the ship. In order to prevent a collision, the Admiral Vinogradov’s crew was forced to conduct an emergency maneuver,” the press service said.
The U.S. Navy provided CNN with a picture of the incident taken from a helicopter. It clearly shows that U.S. ship was in the wrong and that the Russian view of the incident is the correct one.
The picture shows both ships with their bows towards the camera. The ship seen on the left is the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov. The ship seen on the right side of the picture is the U.S. cruiser Chancellorsville. The stern waves show that the Russian ship was on a straight course and made a last-minute maneuver by taking a sharp turn to its right to avoid an imminent collision.
To judge the situation one must take the view of both bridge crews at the time before the emergency maneuver happened. The crew of the U.S. cruiser saw the Russian ship coming up on its right or starboard side. The crew of the Russian ship saw the U.S. ship coming up on its left or port side. The rules for such a crossing of courses at sea are clear.
The Handbook of Nautical Rules lists as the International Maritime Organization Rule 15:
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 admit, avoid crossing ahead of the other vessel.
The book explains further: