Commander of the US Seventh Fleet, Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, has been removed from his post in the wake of a series of warship collisions in Asian waters since January.
Aucoin was relieved of his command on Wednesday, the US Navy confirmed.
“Admiral Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, today relieved the commander of Seventh Fleet, Vice Admiral Josep Aucoin, due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command,” the US Navy said in a press release.
Aucoin had led the fleet, based in Yokosuka, Japan, since September 2015.
Swift, who traveled to Japan to relieve Aucoin, ordered his deputy Pacific Fleet commander, Rear Admiral Phil Sawyer, to take over command of the Seventh Fleet.
The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (foreground), seen with a hole on its portside, docks next to the USS America (behind) at Changi naval base in Singapore on August 22, 2017. /AFP Photo
The dismissal follows a string of incidents this year, including a collision between the USS John S. McCain guided missile destroyer and a tanker off the coast of Singapore on Monday.
Ten sailors were reported missing following the crash, and divers have since recovered “some remains” in sealed compartments within the vessel.
Unnamed officials told CNN on Tuesday the incident may have been caused by a steering malfunction on the US warship.
The ship’s backup steering systems could not be operated as it approached the Strait of Malacca, according to CNN’s sources, although steering was recovered after the collision.
Four incidents in 2017
The US Navy announced a fleet-wide global investigation following the incident on Monday.
“As you know, this is the second collision in three months and the last of a series of incidents in the Pacific theater,” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said.
“This trend demands more forceful action. As such, I have directed an operational pause be taken in all of our fleets around the world.”
A similar incident on June 17 saw the USS Fitzgerald collide with a cargo ship off Japan’s Izu Peninsula, resulting in the deaths of seven US sailors.
In January, the USS Antietam guided-missile cruiser ran aground near the fleet’s home base of Yokosuka, and in May the USS Lake Champlain had a minor collision with a South Korean fishing boat.
Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, speaks to reporters with the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain in the background, at Changi naval base in Singapore on August 22, 2017. /AFP Photo
“While each of these four incidents is unique, they cannot be viewed in isolation,” Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the Pacific Fleet, said at a news conference in Singapore on Tuesday.
He added that the US Navy would conduct an investigation “to find out if there is a common cause … and if so, how do we solve that.”
The Seventh Fleet, part of the US Pacific Fleet, incorporates roughly 50 to 70 ships and submarines, 140 aircraft, and approximately 20,000 sailors.
Its area of operations stretches from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border; and from the Kuril Islands in the north to the Antarctic in the south.
Swift, who traveled to Japan to relieve Aucoin, ordered his deputy Pacific Fleet commander, Rear Admiral Phil Sawyer, to take command of the Seventh Fleet