Update: Bodies of seven missing US Navy sailors found after Japan ship collision

The USS Fitzgerald was heavily damaged in a collision with a cargo ship off Japan, with the hull breached below the waterline. Credit: US Navy

The bodies of seven US Navy sailors have been found in flooded quarters of the USS Fitzgerald, a day after the destroyer was involved in an early-morning collision with a container ship in the busy trade lanes off Yokosuka in Japan.

USS Fitzgerald and the Philippine-registered ACX Crystal collided on June 17 at 2.30am local time about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka. Seven sailors on the naval vessel were unaccounted for and a huge maritime search was launched by the US Navy and Japanese Coast Guard.

"As search and rescue crews gained access to the spaces that were damaged during the collision this morning, the missing sailors were located in the flooded berthing compartments," the US 7th Fleet said in a statement. "They are currently being transferred to Naval Hospital Yokosuka where they will be identified. The families are being notified and being provided the support they need during this difficult time. The names of the sailors will be released after all notifications are made."

USS Fitzgerald is an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer (DDG 62) and was operating off Yokosuka when the collision occurred. The vessel’s commanding officer Bryce Benson was one of two seamen airlifted to hospital and several others were injured.

Despite sustaining heavy damage to an amidships area, the destroyer remained under her own power. USS Dewey and several US Navy aircraft converged on the scene with Japanese Coast Guard and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopters, ships and aircraft to render assistance.

The collision was near the entrance to Tokyo Bay, one of the busiest maritime areas in the world and home to Japan's superport hub that unifies the ports of Yokohama, Kawasaki, and Tokyo, Japan's largest container port. Container trade in Japan is expected to accelerate in the 2017/18 fiscal year, growing 2% to 12.2 million teu with the bulk of the volume crossing the wharves of these three ports.

Contact Greg Knowler at greg.knowler@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @greg_knowler

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