US Judge orders tanker owner to pay $44m over Alnic collision with destroyer

A US judge said on Wednesday June 15th that the owner of oil tanker Alnic (IMO 9396725) must pay the US $44.6m over its role in the August 21st 2017 collision between the tanker and US Navy destroyer John S McCain in southeast Asia that resulted in the deaths of 10 sailors and injured dozens more.

US District Judge Paul Crotty in Manhattan found Energetic Tank Inc 20% responsible for the collision. The US was found 80% responsible. Subsequent to the incident the US Navy relieved the warship’s commander and his deputy of their duties. “The commanding officer exercised poor judgement, and the executive officer exercised poor leadership of the ship’s training programme,” the USS Seventh Fleet said in October 2017.

In 2019 the US National Transportation Safety Board said the probable cause of the collision was “a lack of effective operational oversight of the destroyer by the US Navy, which resulted in insufficient training and inadequate bridge operating procedures.”

Both vessels had been cruising alongside each other when the John S McCain, a guided missile destroyer that was nearing Singapore for a routine port call, veered to its left. The bow of the Alnic pierced the McCain broadside on, causing the destroyer to flood. Energetic Tank, which court papers say has an office in Monrovia, Liberia, sought to hold the US responsible for the collision, which caused damage of $185m to the McCain and $442,445 to the Alnic, which is currently valued at about $16.2m.

The US conceded that the McCain bore some blame, but claimed that the actions of the Alnic also played a role. Judge Crotty ruled on the liability after a non-jury trial last November. The $44.6m includes interest.

Unless there are objections, a second trial will apportion the money to victims and their families, the judge said. Forty-one wrongful death or personal injury claims have been filed.

Paul Hofmann, a lawyer for some of the claimants, said the “well-considered” decision would prove “some level of recompense” for sailors and families who suffered grievous injuries.

The case is In re Energetic Tank Inc as owner of the M/V Alnic MC, for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability, US District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 18-01359.

At the time 2008-built, Liberia-flagged, 30,040 gt Alnic was owned and managed by Energetic Tank Inc of Majuro MH, Marshall Islands. ISM manager was Stealth Maritime Corp of Athens, Greece. It was entered with UK P&I Club on behalf of Energetic Tank Inc. The same ownership and insurance details apply today.