A Japanese tug boat lost propulsion and rammed into a US guided-missile destroyer during a towing exercise on Saturday, 18 November. USS Benfold suffered minor damage and remains in the sea waters on her own power. No sailor was injured.
This is the latest in a series of such incidents involving the US Navy's vessels, especially belonging to the 7th Fleet. Prior to this, the unit was involved in two deadly collisions in Asia in 2017. There were also two other minor incidents.
The Japanese boat scraped Benfold on its side during a scheduled towing exercise in Sagami Bay. The US and Japanese navies are currently engaged in a 10-day maritime drill in a show of force against North Korea, which has been increasing its threats in recent months.
"No one was injured on either vessel and Benfold sustained minimal damage, including scrapes on its side, pending a full damage assessment," said a 7th Fleet official. "The Japanese commercial tug is being towed by another vessel to a port in Yokosuka."
An investigation into the incident is underway.
The Japan-based 7th Fleet lost 17 sailors in two separate incidents involving guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS John McCain. In August, 10 American personnel were killed when John McCain collided with an oil tanker off Singapore. Fitzgerald collided with a Philippines-flagged vessel claiming the lives of seven sailors off Japan. Authorities said both incidents were "preventable".
Following a spate of such incidents, the US Navy has announced major reforms, including robust training for officers in order to step up alertness at sea.