A tanker managed by Vafias family-linked Stealth Maritime is going to have to foot a $44.6m bill for a fatal collision with a US Navy destroyer, even though the warship was mostly at fault.
US District Judge Paul Crotty ruled on Wednesday that Energetic Tank, the registered owner of the 50,100-dwt product tanker Alnic (built 2008), will have to pay the sum because it ended up causing $185m damage.
But he also ruled that the USS John McCain bears 80% of the responsibility for the 2017 Singapore Strait crash.
“The court acknowledges the counterintuitive reality that the US shall recover the greater amount in damages despite bearing most of the responsibility for the collision,” Crotty wrote in his order.
“That reality arises out of the ‘peculiar nature of the vessel struck — a fragile [destroyer] of the US Navy’.”
Both vessels were heading west in the strait on 21 August 2017 when the destroyer ran into issues with its new touchscreen-based steering system and lost control.
It veered into the Alnic’s path and collided at nearly a 45-degree angle, tearing a hole in the side of the USS John McCain.
Ten navy sailors died and 41 were injured.
The court found that the navy failed to adequately train the crew on how to use the steering system, which at one point saw control of the USS John McCain ping-pong from station to station on the bridge as the ship lost control.
The warship also failed to navigate safely, as it still had to attempt to steer clear of other ships even if it did not have control.
But Crotty ruled that the Alnic bore some responsibility, too, as it failed to staff the bridge properly, using four crew members instead of five.
It was an issue Stealth Maritime was aware of, the court found: a superintendent noticed the lower staffing levels during a Singapore Strait transit during an inspection two months before the crash and notified management.
The Alnic also failed to avoid the crash, with expert witnesses from both sides arguing that it could have stopped its engines or turned to avoid the collision.
The bill includes 20% of the total $185m repair costs plus interest, less 80% of the Alnic's $442,445 repair costs and interest.
Stealth Maritime and its Blank Rome lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.