Seven months after a hospital ship damaged the dock of the USS Arizona Memorial, the U.S. Navy is releasing the results of its investigation.
A report by the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command not only confirms that USNS Mercy hit the dock, but says the incident was caused by human error and avoidable.
The report says the harbor pilot on board had poor control over tugboats guiding the ship out of Pearl Harbor.
“If the ahead bell hadn’t been ordered when it was, we would have wiped out the memorial.”
As a result, the report says the ship headed toward the memorial and the pilot and ship’s captain lost track of where the ship was going.
44. 0748:00 (0-0m). MERCY strikes the landing dock and the Stern Watch reports “we hit the pier, opening at this time.” SOG at the time of the allision is 1.3 knots and sternway is 0.2 knots. Tiger 5 reports the ship’s rudder has rubbed against the USS ARIZONA Memorial landing dock fender and that prop wash from the full bell has caused significant motion to the landing dock and damage.
The dock was badly damaged, preventing visitors from going onto the memorial for more than a week.
1. The allision was avoidable and the result of human errors. Poor tug control by the pilot resulted in unexpected sternway and the loss of situational awareness with respect to the ship’s movement by the Pilot and Master for approximately 3 minutes (0744-0747) resulted in the allision.
According to the report, an off-duty observer said it could have been much worse.
“… somewhere at 30 yards or less from the Memorial, I could see prop wash. I could look down and see the turrets of the sunken ARIZONA. I could tell our “ahead bell” had been ordered based on the shaking of the ship and prop wash. If the ahead bell hadn’t been ordered when it was, we would have wiped out the memorial.”