(CNN)Ten US Navy sailors are missing after a US Navy guided-missile destroyer collided with an oil tanker east of Singapore early Monday, the fourth accident in Asian waters involving a US warship in 2017.
The Navy’s 7th Fleet said the USS John S. McCain collided with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while the destroyer was making its way to a port visit in Singapore. The collision was reported at 5:24 am local time, east of the Malacca Strait, one of the world’s most congested shipping routes.
The Navy reported significant hull damage to the McCain, saying there was flooding in berthing compartments as well as machinery and communication rooms.
Pacific naval impact
The collision comes at a time of high tensions in the Pacific.
The McCain is equipped with the Aegis missile defense system, which has been touted as a possible counter to any North Korean missile launch. If it is out of action after Monday’s collision, it would mean at least 3 of 11 Aegis warships based at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan are unavailable for deployment.
The US Navy fleet has 84 warships equipped with the Aegis missile defense system.
The McCain’s last high-profile mission was earlier this month, when it performed a freedom-of-navigation exercise near a Chinese-claimed island in the South China Sea.
No fuel or oil was seen on the water near the ship after the collision on Monday as it steamed under its own power to Changi Naval Base in Singapore, arriving in the afternoon, the Navy said.
Malaysian officials said their ships and aircraft had joined the search for the missing US sailors.
The search area encompassed 100 nautical square miles, they said, describing sea conditions as rough, with waves up to 1 meter (3.2 feet) high.
In addition to the 10 missing sailors, the Navy said five were injured in the collision. Four of those were flown by a Singapore Navy helicopter to a hospital in Singapore with non-life-threatening injuries, Navy said.
US helicopters and Marine Corps Osprey aircraft from the amphibious assault ship USS America were joining search and rescue efforts along with Singaporean ships and helicopters, the Navy said.
The McCain collision marks the fourth incident involving a US Navy warship in the Pacific this year.
On June 17, the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship off the coast of Japan. That collision resulted in the deaths of seven US sailors. The Fitzgerald will be transported to the US for repairs.
On May 9, the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain was struck by a small fishing boat off the Korean Peninsula.
And in late January, the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam ran aground while trying to anchor in Tokyo Bay. Authorities at Yokosuka Naval Base said the Antietam remains out of action.
Oil tanker ‘three times bigger’
Search and rescue
— Chief of Navy — PTL (@mykamarul) August 21, 2017