USS Fitzgerald Heads Out on Sea Trials

Image courtesy USN

Published Feb 3, 2020 4:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

 The guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald has departed the pier at Ingalls Shipbuilding for sea trials, marking a significant milestone towards her return to duty after the deadly collision with the container ship ACX Crystal in 2017. 

The warship departed Huntington Ingalls Industries' Pascagoula shipyard at about 0630 hours for her first set of post-repair sea trials. The underway reflects nearly two years' worth of effort in restoring and modernizing the vessel after the 2017 collision.

In the early hours of June 17, 2017, Fitzgerald was under way in heavy traffic southwest of Tokyo Bay. She had her AIS off and was making 20 knots southbound through traffic, outside of the VTS lanes. At 0130 hours, she collided with the bow of the boxship ACX Crystal, leaving a 12-foot by 17-foot hole below Fitzgerald's waterline and damaging her superstructure. Rapid flooding in a belowdecks berthing area claimed the lives of seven sailors, and only swift damage-control efforts by her crew prevented her from sinking. 

After the casualty, U.S. Navy salvors completed temporary repairs to her hull at the Yokosuka dockyard in Japan, then loaded Fitzgerald onto a heavy lift ship for transport back to the United States. Initial work at the Pascagoula drydock focused on restoring the integrity of her hull and topside structures. The vessel was relaunched in April 2019 and has spent the intervening period alongside the pier for fitting-out. 

"Since we launched the ship this past April our efforts have focused on restoring ship systems, conducting pier side tests and readying the ship for sea," said Rear Adm. Tom Anderson, NAVSEA's director for Surface Ship Maintenance and Modernization. "The government and industry team has been working hand-in-hand on this exceptionally complex effort, with a common purpose of returning Fitzgerald to sea and ultimately back to the fleet."

Upon Fitzgerald's return from sea trials, crew training and certifications will begin and final work items will be completed to make ready for the ship's sail-away later this spring. 

"We are excited to take the next step to get Fitzgerald back out to sea where the ship belongs. My crew is looking forward to moving onboard the ship and continuing our training to ensure we are ready to return to the fleet," said Cmdr. Scott Wilbur, Fitzgerald's commanding officer.