Judge dismisses lawsuit in USS Fitzgerald collision

The US Navy destroyer collided with ACX Crystal cargo ship off the coast of Japan. Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Almost three years after the fatal collision between the container ship ACX Crystal and the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald that claimed the lives of seven US Navy sailors, a US judge has dismissed two lawsuits filed by survivors and the sailors’ families who sought more than USD287 million from NYK Line.

ACX Crystal, a 2,854 teu container ship under charter by NYK Line at the time of the incident, collided with USS Fitzgerald in the Pacific Ocean about 148 km southwest of Tokyo, Japan, on 17 June 2017. The collision happened while USS Fitzgerald was turning to starboard. As a result, the bow of the container ship pierced a hole in the amidships of the starboard side of the destroyer below the water line, causing water to flood into the ship resulting in significant damage to electrical systems.

The bodies of the seven dead crew members were recovered from the flooded berthing compartments of the ship while three other US Navy sailors, including the commanding officer Bryce Benson, were injured.

An investigation conducted by the Japan Transport Safety Board later confirmed that USS Fitzgerald failing to follow protocol was the cause of the fatal accident.

In the latest blow to the families of the deceased crew members and survivors, US District judge Lance Africk recently granted NYK Line’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that they did not have jurisdiction to sue NYK Line because the commercial shipping company “cannot be deemed at home” in every country in which it operates.

Lawyers for the US Navy crew have vowed to appeal the decision.