WASHINGTON – The USS Benfold sustained slight damage when a Japanese tug drifted into the guided-missile destroyer during a towing exercise off central Japan on Saturday, the U.S. Navy said.
“No one was injured on either vessel and Benfold sustained minimal damage, including scrapes on its side, pending a full damage assessment,” a statement from the U.S. 7th Fleet said.
“Benfold remains at sea under her own power. The Japanese commercial tug is being towed by another vessel to a port in Yokosuka. The incident will be investigated,” it said, referring to the fleet’s base in Kanagawa Prefecture.
The accident occurred as Japanese and U.S. forces were taking part in a 10-day joint naval drill until Nov. 26 in a show of force aimed at North Korea, whose nuclear ambitions dominated U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent trip to Asia.
The Japan Coast Guard said the tugboat lost control and drifted into the warship as a rope got caught in its propeller, but confirmed there were no injuries.
The incident was the latest mishap involving a U.S. warship in Asia.
The U.S. Navy announced a series of reforms this month aimed at restoring basic naval skills and alertness at sea after a review of deadly ship collisions in the Asia-Pacific region showed sailors were undertrained and overworked.
Seventeen U.S. sailors have been killed this year in two collisions with commercial vessels involving guided-missile destroyers: the USS Fitzgerald in June off Kanagawa Prefecture, and then the USS John S. McCain in August as it approached Singapore.