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2 U.S. Navy Ships Collide off Southern California

Published May 17, 2012 9:26 AM by The Maritime Executive

A U.S. Navy report has confirmed that two of their ships collided with each other off San Diego’s coast in the Pacific on Wednesday. No injuries have been reported and although a thorough investigation is being conducted, the cause of the incident is believed to stem from a steering malfunction on one of the vessels.

Both ships – the USS Essex, an amphibious assault ship, and the USNS Yukon, a refueling tanker – were damaged, but the full extent has not yet been assessed. However, both ships were able to continue toward San Diego despite the damage, which did not affect their fuel tanks or systems.

According to CNN, the accident occurred about 9:20 a.m. PT about 120 miles off the coast of Southern California. The ships were approaching each other as the Yukon was preparing to refuel the Essex; the steering malfunction was aboard the Essex.

The Essex (pictured above) is scheduled to return to San Diego today after completing 12 years as the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed amphibious assault ship in Sasebo, Japan. It was carrying 982 crew members, and navy officials state that this is its first collision – although two helicopters previously based on the ship suffered crashes in the mid-90s.

The Yukon (pictured in thumb image) arrived at the Navy base in San Diego after 3 p.m. Wednesday with its crew of 78. All but four are civilian mariners, reports the Washington Post. This is the naval vessel’s third documented accident – including in 2000, when it collided with a 135-foot civilian cargo ship while trying to enter Dubai’s Jebel Ali port in the United Arab Emirates. The Yukon sustained minor damage. Less than five months later, it was hit by the USS Denver during refueling off the coast of Hawaii. Both ships sustained heavy damage.

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Official U.S. Navy Statement:

No One Injured as USS Essex, USNS Yukon Collide at Sea

At approximately 9:20 a.m. PST, USS Essex (LHD 2) collided with USNS Yukon (T-AO 202) during an approach for a routine underway replenishment approximately 120 miles off the coast of Southern California due to an apparent steering malfunction aboard Essex.

While both ships reported some damage, no one was injured, there was no fuel spilled and the ships' fuel tanks and systems were not compromised.

The Navy will conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of the collision, and a full assessment of any damage is ongoing.

Essex is scheduled to return to San Diego May 17 after completing 12 years as the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed amphibious assault ship in Sasebo, Japan. The crew of USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) took over Essex April 23, during a planned hull swap. USNS Yukon is a Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler operating out of San Diego.

Source: U.S. Navy - http://www.navy.mil/