Washington: United States Navy is planning to relieve Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of its 7th Fleet, from duty that has suffered four collisions in Asia, leading to deaths of more than a dozen sailors this year.
Aucoin, the head of the Seventh Fleet based in Japan, the Navy’s largest overseas fleet, is expected to be removed on Wednesday in connection with the four collisions since January, including two fatal mishap in the past two months, New York Times quoted the official as saying.
An official statement from the Navy regarding the relief of Aucoin was expected late Tuesday night.
Admiral Scott H. Swift, the commander of the United States Pacific Fleet, was flying from Singapore to the Seventh Fleet headquarters in Yokosuka, Japan, where he is expected to relieve Admiral Aucoin on Wednesday.
The announcement by the American official came after Admiral John Richardson, the Navy’s top officer, announced that all 277 Navy ships worldwide would take an “operational pause” to review basic seamanship, teamwork and other “fundamentals.”
The White House expressed its “great sadness” about the incident. “As the Navy begins the process of recovering our fallen sailors, our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and friends,” the statement said.
Admiral Aucoin, a highly decorated naval aviator, has commanded the fleet since September 2015. Aucoin was to retire next month but his departure has been necessitated by his superiors.
Navy destroyer John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker before dawn on Monday off the coast of Singapore. 10 sailors were reported missing, but officials confirmed Tuesday that Navy divers had found the remains of some sailors in a flooded compartment.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told that an inquiry into the collision had already begun. “We obviously have an investigation underway and that will determine what happened,” he said.
“Until we have exhausted any potential of recovering survivors or bodies, the search and rescue efforts will continue,” U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift said.
In June, seven sailors died when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.
In January, the USS Antietam guided missile cruiser ran aground near Yokosuka base, the home port of the 7th Fleet, and in May another cruiser, the USS Lake Champlain from the Navy’s 3rd Fleet, had a minor collision with a South Korean fishing boat.
Swift stressed that each of the incidents was “unique,” but added that “they cannot be viewed in isolation.”(ANI)