After repairs were finished on the ACX Crystal container container ship, the vessel and most of its crew were able to leave Japan for Thailand on Sunday, though the ship’s captain and some crew members voluntarily stayed behind for questioning, according to Yoshinori Fukushima, company spokesman for the group that owns the ACX Crystal.
The June 17 accident took place in an area known for accidents due to being congested with ships hurriedly making their way to Tokyo off the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture. At the time of the collision the, US guided missile destroyer was carrying 300 crew members, and the berths of 116 sailors were flooded as a result of serious damage done to the vessel’s bottom and right side.
After the ship returned to the Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture naval base the bodies of seven sailors were found by Navy divers.
Officials say the US is exercising its right to investigate its ship and not share the information with Japan, even though the crash took place in Japanese territorial waters. This is allowed under the bilateral Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA), and though Japan Coast Guard officials said they’re still considering cooperation with Washington, nothing has yet been confirmed.
The cause of the accident is also being investigated by experts from the Japan Transport Safety Board, and if there is no information forthcoming from the US officials may have to compile a report based only on the information they’ve gathered, according board spokesman Katsunori Takahashi. The spokesman pointed out that there have been other instances where Washington did not cooperate on an investigation.
The initial findings of the investigation pointed to the crew of the USS Fitzgerald being at fault for the crash, with one unnamed Defense official telling CNN that the crew "did nothing until the last second," and "A slew of things went wrong," while a second official said the incident will likely "wind up being our (the US Navy's) fault."
The officials suggested that the crew failed to take preventative action so the crash could be avoided.
US Navy chief of information Rear Admiral Dawn Cutler responded to this reporting in a Friday statement saying, "It is premature to speculate on causation or any other issues. Once we have a detailed understanding of the facts and circumstances, we will share those findings with the Fitzgerald families, our congressional oversight committees and the general public."
Tom Fedyszyn of the Naval War College explained to the New York Post that the protocol for acknowledging an approaching ship is pretty straight forward, saying "If you looked off the bridge [of a ship there], you would see lights," and that "You see something big coming at you and you call [the bridge of the oncoming vessel]…You tell them where you are, what your speed is, and you ask them to tell you their maneuvers."