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"This trend demands more forceful action," admiral says after latest accident

Ten US sailors are missing after USS John S. McCain collides with merchant ship

CNN  — 

As search teams continued Tuesday to look for 10 American sailors missing after a Navy warship collided with a commercial tanker east of Singapore – the latest in a series of similar incidents in the Pacific – the US defense brass wants answers.

Following the collision Monday between the USS John S. McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, and the merchant vessel, Defense Secretary James Mattis said he supports the decision by Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, to conduct a “comprehensive review” of recent US Navy collisions.

The aim will be “to determine any of the causal factors, to determine what’s going on – both immediate contributors to this incident but also any related factors.”

The collision left major damage to the port side of the USS John S. McCain, seen here in Singapore.

The US 7th Fleet said search efforts are being focused on an area east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.

Monday’s crash marked the fourth time this year a US warship has been involved in an accident in Asian waters.

Richardson said in a Facebook statement that he has asked Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of US Fleet Forces Command, to take charge of the investigation, which will include a review of “the process by which we train and certify our forces that are forward-deployed in Japan to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to make them ready for operations and war fighting.”

The probe will also examine operational tempo and “trends in personnel, materiel, maintenance and equipment,” he said. “It will also include a review of how we train and certify our surface warfare community, including tactical and navigational proficiency.”

Richardson said there is no indication at this time that the incident was caused by cyberintrusion or sabotage, but the review will consider all possibilities.

“We are looking at every possibility so we are not leaving anything to chance there,” he said.

‘Forceful action’

Richardson is ordering a one-day pause in operations, allowing fleet leaders and commanders to take measures to “ensure safe and effective operations around the world,” he said.

“This is the second collision in three months and is the last in a series of incidents in the Pacific theater. This trend demands more forceful action,” Richardson said.

The pause is a one-day safety stand-down that will be done on a rotational basis over the course of a couple of weeks, at the discretion of individual commands, a source told CNN.

“The emphasis of that is really to take a look at the fundamentals, at the unit and team level, to make sure that we are not overlooking anything … the basic seamanship, airmanship, those sorts of things: teamwork, how we do business on the bridge, the fundamentals,” Richardson told reporters on Monday.

“We want to do this pretty briskly. My direction will be about a week we should execute all of this, and then we’ll roll those up and capture any lessons learned and roll those back out,” he said.

The 7th Fleet said the McCain collided with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while the destroyer was making its way to a port in Singapore. The collision was reported at 5:24 a.m. local time, east of the Malacca Strait, one of the world’s most congested shipping routes.

The Navy reported significant hull damage to the McCain, saying there was flooding in berthing compartments as well as machinery and communication rooms.

After the accident, President Donald Trump arrived at the White House on Marine One and told reporters of the collision, “That’s too bad.” He and Vice President Mike Pence also tweeted that their thoughts and prayers were with the sailors aboard the destroyer.

Sen. John McCain joined them and thanked the rescue crews for their service. The destroyer is named for the senator’s father and grandfather, both of whom were Navy admirals. The senator was a captain in the Navy.

Pacific naval impact

The collision comes at a time of high tensions in the Pacific.