A Panamanian shipping company is suing the U.S. government, demanding it pay for more than $1.7 million in repairs needed after a Navy destroyer collided with one of its oil tankers two years ago in the Middle East.
The owner of the oil tanker Otowasan, Volts Shipping Navigation S.A., claims that the guided-missile destroyer Porter violated almost a dozen international shipping regulations in the moments leading up to the collision, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Va.
The Navy fired the Porter's commanding officer three weeks after the collision. An internal investigation determined that he showed poor judgment when he ordered the ship to cut across the path of the oncoming tanker as it approached the Strait of Hormuz on the night of Aug. 12, 2012.
Audio recorded in the Porter's pilothouse and released by the Navy last year revealed a series of questionable decisions by the skipper in the moments before impact. The Porter had cut across the path of another tanker — narrowly avoiding impact — only minutes before steaming in front of the Otowasan in the strait, one of the world's busiest shipping channels, en route to the Persian Gulf.
The Porter, by far the smaller of the two ships, incurred the brunt of the impact. The Otowasan — almost the size and twice the weight of an aircraft carrier — was lumbering at 14 knots when it slammed into the warship, cutting a gaping hole in the destroyer's starboard side and rattling the 270 sailors on board.
Nobody was seriously injured.
The Navy spent $2.2 million to patch up the Porter before bringing it back to Norfolk, where it spent another $50 million on more extensive repairs last year.
The ship returned to Norfolk Naval Station earlier this year.
Jen Zeldis of the Navy’s Office of the Judge Advocate General said she could not comment on the pending litigation.