According to local news reports, the USS Lake Champlain, an American Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser out of San Diego, California, has collided with a fishing vessel off the coast the Korean peninsula.

The collision has been categorized as “minor” by South Korean officials who have launched an investigation into the incident.  A parallel U.S. Navy investigation has also been launched.

According to a brief statement released by the Navy, the 568-foot Lake Champlain collided with a 60-70-foot fishing vessel at around mid-ship on the port side (the middle portion of the ship’s left side, as seen from the bridge).  The incident took place at around 11:50AM local time on Tuesday.  Visibility was reportedly limited at the time of the collision.

A Navy representative told the press that “it’s very common” to have small boats approach large American Navy ships, and that the vessel did not demonstrate any threatening behavior or weapon systems to speak of.  None the less, it is extremely uncommon for the U.S. Navy to be involved in such an embarrassing error, and despite efforts to downplay the incident, there’s no doubt that such a collision indicates a failure at some level to take appropriate action to avoid such a mishap.

The Navy reports that they did attempt to make contact with the fishing vessel via bridge-to-bridge radio prior to the collision, but the fishing vessel was apparently not equipped with a radio.

A damage assessment is underway, though initial reports indicate the damage was minor, with no casualties or evacuations reported from either vessel.

“At end of the day, this is unacceptable. It is not considered a fact of life in (the) maritime community,” said Bryan McGrath, a Navy veteran and founder of The FerryBridge Group, a consulting agency that specializes in naval and national security issues.

“I watched enough of my friends have issues like this and be removed from command,” he added.

The USS Lake Champlain, named after a lake in Burlington, Vermont, joined the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group after departing San Diego in January.  It, along with the rest of the strike group, is now tasked with conducting joint military training exercises with the South Korean Navy as a part of a wider defensive posture adopted in the face of North Korean threats of pre-emptive nuclear strikes against U.S. forces and its allies.

This is not the first embarrassing incident to befall the Carl Vinson strike group, as a pilot was forced to eject from his F/A-18E Super Hornet while attempting to land on the Nimitz class aircraft carrier a few weeks ago.  At the time, the USS Carl Vinson was traveling past the Philippines while en route to the Korean Peninsula.

Last week, a Russian intelligence vessel collided with a civilian ship ferrying livestock.  The civilian vessel survived the incident with minor damages, but the Russian Liman, a Moma class surveillance ship, sank, forcing all 78 members of the crew to be evacuated to Turkish Coast Guard ships.

The Lake Champlain likely won’t be removed from service for repairs immediately, and will probably remain in the area with the Carl Vinson and guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Michael Murphy.


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons