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Search underway for missing sailors after US destroyer collides with ship near Singapore

The USS John S. McCain, a U.S. destroyer ship, collided with an oil tanker in the South China Sea, where the warship was conducting Freedom of Navigation Operations to secure trade routes from China. (Image source: NBC News screenshot)

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer, USS John S. McCain, collided with a merchant vessel Monday morning near Singapore. Singaporean ships and the U.S. Navy are searching for 10 missing sailors. Five were reportedly injured.

According to Fox News, the collision between the USS John S McCain and the 30,000-ton, 600-foot Liberian Alnic MC oil tanker occurred at 6:24 a.m. Japan Standard Time. Damage to the ship resulted in flooding to crew berthing, machinery, and communications rooms, according to the Navy.

The Navy did not immediately reveal exactly how the two massive ships collided, but the Navy reported that it is treating the incident as an accident.

According to Fox News, the ship limped under its own power to the Changi Naval Base in nearby Singapore.

After the collision, a search began for 10 missing sailors by American, Singaporean and Malaysian armed forces, according to Fox News. According to NBC News, Singapore has dedicated four ships from its Navy to the search effort, as well as three tugboats from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.

U.S. helicopters and Ospreys from the USS America are also assisting in the search for the missing sailors.

NBC News reported that five sailors were hurt during the crash, but none have suffered life-threatening injuries. Four were helicoptered out by the Singaporean Navy. One, who suffered only minor injuries, stayed with the ship.

According to NBC News, this is the fourth incident of a collision by an American Naval vessel in under a year.

Why this warship is important

The USS John S McCain is a ship that takes part in the U.S.-led Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea.

The warship was involved in a maneuver earlier this month that would keep China from claiming sole ownership of  trade routes used by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. This trade route sees $5 trillion in ship-borne trade pass through it every year.

U.S. officials are concerned about China's construction of man-made islands, believing it an attempt to expand its land mass, and claim ownership of the South China Sea trade routes. The USS John S McCain's recent FONOP is the third, and least ambiguous maneuver to challenge China's ownership of the South China Sea trade routes. The warship navigated just 12 miles off of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.

U.S. officials contend that some of these islands are man-made, and include military installations. China, however, denies this.

While many countries rely on these trade routes, they are reluctant to earn the ire of China, and rely on the U.S. and its power to push back on China's claims to the routes.

Both Beijing and Washington have a high interest in the recourse-rich trade route. In order to keep it out of Chinese hands, the U.S. must consistently display a great show of military might to keep China at bay. The Navy has yet to say whether or not a warship will replace the USS John S McCain in the meantime.


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