Watch issues led to near-collision in San Diego, report finds

Communication issues and a failure to maintain proper watch on the bridge led to a near-collision between the guided-missile destroyer Momsen and the dock landing ship Harpers Ferry last year, according to a preliminary investigation obtained by Navy Times.

In November 2022, the Momsen and Harpers Ferry were transiting in opposite directions “in close vicinity” to one another in San Diego Bay, U.S. 3rd Fleet spokesman Lt. Samuel Boyle previously told Navy Times. The incident, which was captured on video and posted to the @SanDiegoWebCam Twitter account, did not involve any injuries to sailors, nor any damage to either ship.

Preliminary Inquiry into the Near-Miss Between Harpers Ferry and Momsen

The report determined several factors contributed to the near collision, including:

  • Failure from the Momsen to follow procedures maintaining a proper watch on bridge-to-bridge as it related to the tactical communicator position
  • Failure from the Momsen to maintain proper watch on bridge-to-bridge
  • Failure from the Harpers Ferry to adhere to Bridge Resource Management
  • Failure from both ships to communicate using secondary communication channels
  • Failure from both ships’ Combat Information Centers to provide forceful backup to the pilothouse

Several other factors, which were redacted, were also included in the report.

Ultimately, the investigation concluded that the episode did not result in a collision due to “decisive actions” from the Momsen’s commanding officer to maneuver to port, and the officer of the deck from the Harpers Ferry choosing to maneuver to port “when he felt the point of extremis was reached.”

Additionally, the report concluded that the Momsen commanding officer and the Harpers Ferry officer of the deck deciding to shift rudders at “approximately the same time to complete a successful maneuver to safe waters” prevented a collision from occurring.

Naval Surface Forces spokesman Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson told Navy Times in an email that the command did not administer any adverse or punitive actions against anyone affiliated with the incident.

“Instead, we focused on assessing processes and implementing lessons learned to ensure this type of incident does not occur again,” Abrahamson said.

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at [email protected].

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