Ten sailors are missing after a United States warship collided with an oil tanker east of Singapore on Monday, the U.S. Navy said.
According to the Navy, this is a second accident involving U.S. Navy destroyers in Asian waters in little more than two months.
The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with the merchant vessel Alnic MC before dawn while heading to Singapore for a routine port call, the Navy said in a statement.
“Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft,” the Navy said. “There are currently 10 sailors missing and five injured.”
Four of the injured were evacuated by helicopter to a hospital in Singapore with non-life-threatening injuries, while the fifth needed no further treatment, it said.
The USS John S. McCain’s sister ship, the USS Fitzgerald, almost sank off the coast of Japan after it was struck by a Philippine container ship on June 17.
Collisions between warships and other large vessels are extremely rare, with naval historians going back more than 50 years to find a similar previous incident.
A search-and-rescue mission was under way for the sailors missing from the USS John S. McCain involving Singaporean ships, helicopters and tug boats, as well as U.S. Navy aircraft.
The warship was currently sailing under its own power toward Singapore’s Changi Naval Base and there was no sign of fuel or oil visible near the ship, the Navy said.
The Alnic MC is a Liberian-flagged, 183 metres long oil or chemical tanker of 50,760 deadweight tonnes, according to shipping data in Media.
An Alnic crew member told Media by telephone there was no oil spill from the tanker, which was carrying almost 12,000 tonnes of fuel oil from Taiwan to discharge in Singapore.
“We have not discharged the tanker yet,” said the crew member, who asked not to be identified.
“We are proceeding to Raffles Reserved Anchorage, where the owners will investigate the matter. There was some damage to the valve but no oil spill.”
However, Malaysian navy chief Ahmad Badaruddin told Media the collision happened in Malaysian waters and it had sent vessels to assist.
The Pedra Branca area near where the collision happened has long been contested by both countries, with an international court ruling in Singapore’s favour in 2008.
Malaysia filed an application to review that ruling earlier this year.
The waterways around Singapore are some of the busiest and most important in the world, carrying around a third of global shipping trade.