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    HomeMilitaryNavy Cargo Ship's Grounding in Bahrain: A Dinner Decision Leads to Mishap

    Navy Cargo Ship’s Grounding in Bahrain: A Dinner Decision Leads to Mishap

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    USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3), left, conducts an underway replenishment with RFA Fort Victoria (A 387) while USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) follows in the East China Sea.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    In a remarkable turn of events, a U.S. Navy cargo ship, the USNS Alan Shepard, ran aground off the coast of Bahrain after its captain and other key officers vacated the bridge for dinner, leaving the vessel in the care of a junior third officer.

    USS Shiloh (CG 67) replenishes from USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3).” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The incident, which occurred on July 15, 2023, has shed light on the importance of adherence to naval procedures and the presence of commanding officers in restricted waters.

    The guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) and the dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3) conduct an underway replenishment.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The Alan Shepard was transitioning to a pier at Khalifa Bin Salman Port to complete repairs when it was instructed to wait for a harbor pilot.

    USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) transports cargo to USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3) in the Indian Ocean.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The master handed over control to the third officer at 4:49 p.m. and went to eat dinner, along with the navigator and the chief mate.

    USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) approaches USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3) before a replenishment.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    What transpired next was a cautionary tale of distraction and the necessity of situational awareness.

    An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter delivers supplies to USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during a replenishment-at-sea with USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3).” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The third officer, distracted by a fishing vessel, maneuvered to avoid a potential collision, unknowingly steering the cargo ship into the shallows. Within a mere 20 minutes of the officers’ departure, the Alan Shepard was aground.

    MH-60S Sea Hawks transport supplies from USNS Alan Shepard during a replenishment-at-sea” by #PACOM is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Despite being averted from a potential disaster, the investigation highlighted a lapse in following the standing orders requiring the master’s presence on the bridge in shallow waters.

    Pier 70 USNS Alan Shepard 4-2012” by daver6sf@yahoo.com is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    “This for me solely falls on the shoulders of the master,” said Sal Mercogliano, a maritime historian, indicating the gravity of the captain’s absence during the maneuvering through Bahrain’s congested waters.

    USS Mustin sailors prepare for a replenishment as sea with dry cargo & ammunition Ship USNS Alan Shepard” by #PACOM is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Fortunately, the ship suffered only minor scratches to its hull with no reported injuries thanks to the assistance of Bahraini tugs and rising tides, which helped free the vessel the following day.

    USS Howard arrives at Yokosuka as one of the newest additions to CTF 71/Destroyer Squadron 15” by U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    It is worth noting that the Navy’s approach to similar incidents varies, as exemplified by the removal of the commander of the USS Howard after a “soft grounding” occurred just weeks following the Alan Shepard’s mishap.

    Pier 70 USNS Alan Shepard 4-2012” by daver6sf@yahoo.com is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    The USNS Alan Shepard, launched in 2006 and manned by civilian mariners licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard, plays a vital role in transporting cargo and supplies for Navy vessels at sea.

    USS Dwight D. Eisenhower conducts an ammunition transfer with USS George Washington.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The ship is back on duty, currently operational in the Middle East, supporting the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its strike group.

    An MH-60S Sea Hawk, attached to the ‘Island Knights’ of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25, delivers supplies to the flight deck of the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during a replenishment-at-sea with dry ca” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The grounding of the Alan Shepard serves as a stark reminder of the perils of complacency and the strict adherence to naval protocols.

    An MH-60S Sea Hawk, attached to the ‘Island Knights’ of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25, delivers supplies to the flight deck of the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during a replenishment-at-sea.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The need for vigilance and leadership is paramount, especially when navigating in precarious environments that demand the utmost attention and expertise.

    California National Guard” by The National Guard is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    As the ship sails on in support of naval operations, the lessons learned from this incident will echo in the procedures and training of maritime officers to prevent future groundings.

    Relevant articles:
    Investigation Finds Navy Supply Ship Ran Aground After Captain Left to Eat Dinner, Military.com
    USNS Alan Shepard ran aground in Bahrain after captain left bridge to eat, investigation finds, Stars and Stripes
    U.S Navy Ship Ran Aground After Captain Left the Bridge & Went For Dinner, Investigation Finds, Marine Insight
    Navy ship ran aground when officer went to dinner, investigation finds, Navy Times

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