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Letter: The USS Fitzgerald was plenty seaworthy

The USS Fitzgerald was plenty seaworthy

In the letter titled, “Military maintenance could use more funding,” the writer states, “Destroyers nowadays cost more than a billion dollars, yet merely running into a freighter almost sank one.”

This statement causes me to wonder about the writer’s nautical expertise. I served in the U.S. Navy for 25 years on active duty. I served aboard six different ships – two repair ships, one helicopter carrier, two fleet ballistic missile submarines and one fast attack submarine. I know a thing or two about ships because I’ve seen a thing or two.

The USS Fitzgerald is an Arleigh Burke class destroyer. Length: 505 feet. Full displacement: 9,000 tons.

The ACX Crystal is a container ship. Length: 732 feet. Full displacement: 39,565 tons. Full displacement includes the weight of the hull, cargo, fuel, ballast, provisions, crew, weapons, ammunition, machinery, etc.

The Crystal had a 30,565-ton advantage over the Fitzgerald. The Fitzgerald did not merely run in to the Crystal, the Crystal rammed the Fitzgerald’s starboard forward side and superstructure, crushing it and opening up multiple compartments below the water line to the sea with its huge bulbous bow. Sort of like a semi truck hitting a Prius. Seven men dead. Many injured. How tragic.

The writer goes on to state: “Maybe we should focus more attention on the vessels’ seaworthiness rather than the number of missiles, planes and helicopters they have.” Destroyers don’t carry planes. The Fitzgerald is plenty seaworthy. Getting rammed by a much larger and heavier ship is not a test of its seaworthiness. The fact that it did not sink is a testimony to the shipyard personnel at Bath Iron Works where it was built. It is also a testimonial to the crew’s damage control training.

The court of inquiry will determine the “who, what and why” this terrible accident happened. The USS Fitzgerald was plenty seaworthy.

Joseph A. Coppola

HMCS (SS) U.S. Navy (Retired)


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