US destroyer struck bottom near Bali before commander was fired, Navy says
Stars and Stripes August 24, 2023
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The guided-missile destroyer USS Howard, whose commander was relieved of duty this month, sustained a “soft grounding” just before arriving in Indonesia for a port call on Aug. 10, according to the U.S. 7th Fleet.
The Yokosuka-based Howard was en route to Bali when watch standers gave the “initial indication” that the ship had grounded, 7th Fleet spokesman Lt. Luka Bakic told Stars and Stripes by email Thursday.
“Upon indication of potential grounding, watch standers took immediate action to protect the crew and the ship,” he wrote. “The ship was able to return to normal operations under its own power and propulsion. There were no injuries as a result of the mishap.”
The incident occurred nine days before Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, commander of 7th Fleet, fired the Howard’s skipper, Cmdr. Kenji Igawa, on Aug. 19 for a “loss of confidence in his ability to command.”
Bakic would not define a “soft grounding,” nor comment on whether the incident was linked to Igawa being relieved. The spokesman provided no further details about the mishap and emphasized that it is under investigation.
A soft grounding is described elsewhere as one from which a vessel may be freed, even with time or by the actions of wind, wave or tides. It’s also described as a vessel bottoming on a soft seabed rather than harder features such as rocks. A soft grounding typically does not involve major damage to the vessel.
Relieving an officer after a grounding would not be unprecedented.
In 2017, Capt. Joseph Carrigan was relieved of command of the USS Antietam after the guided-missile cruiser ran aground on shoals just beyond Yokosuka.
In 2014, Cmdr. Dennis Volpe, commander of the USS Taylor, was relieved after the frigate ran aground while attempting to moor at the Turkish port of Samsun.
Igawa has been replaced on the Howard by Capt. Edward Angelinas, the former commander of the guided-missile cruiser USS Robert Smalls, until a permanent replacement is chosen, the 7th Fleet said in a news release Sunday.