U.S. Navy fires commander of Seventh Fleet after second deadly collision at sea

by WorldTribune Staff, August 24, 2017

The commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet has been fired after the Aug. 21 collision of the USS John McCain and an oil tanker, the second deadly collision involving U.S. vessels in recent months.

“Adm. Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, today relieved the commander of Seventh Fleet, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command,” the Navy said in a statement.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin. / AFP / Getty Images

Rear Adm. Phil Sawyer has been nominated and confirmed for the position and will assume command of the Seventh Fleet immediately, the Navy said.

Related: Navy investigates possibility USS John McCain collision was no accident, Aug. 22, 2017

The Seventh Fleet, part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, is headquartered at Yokosuka, Japan, with some units based in Japan and South Korea. It is the largest of the forward-deployed U.S. fleets, with 60 to 70 ships, 300 aircraft and 40,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel

The removal of Aucoin from his command comes after remains of 10 missing sailors were found aboard the USS John  McCain, which had collided with a Liberian-flagged oil tanker near Singapore in the early morning hours of Aug. 21.

The collision caused flooding in the berthing area where sailors were sleeping. Search and rescue efforts are continuing.

In June, the USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippines-flagged container ship, killing seven U.S. sailors.

In May, the USS Lake Champlain hit a South Korean fishing boat and, in January, the USS Antietam ran aground off the coast of Japan.

Following the incident involving the USS John McCain, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Richardson ordered an “operational pause” of U.S. fleets worldwide and a review of whether there were deeper problems causing at sea collisions.

Some cybersecurity experts have speculated cyber sabotage may be behind the accidents, but the Navy has said there is no evidence to indicate that.

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