As the US Navy rapidly sacks admirals and officers of lower rank over the USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain collisions the search for systemic (recurring) reasons continues in public and more secretly in the navy.
Pre-dawn (USS Fitzgerald collided at about 1.30am and USS McCain at 5:24am) is one of the worst times as there is enough sunlight emerging to make lights less effective but not enough to see other ship structures particularly well. However, watch keepers and captains should know all this.
Professionals should not be making these sort of mistakes with today's radar, optical night vision aids and other sensors.
USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain were not involved in special manoeuvres (such as underway replenishment at sea (RAS), sailing close to shore, sailing in formation, or boarding at sea while underway, etc.
Civilian freighters and tankers are big and slow. They tend to be lit up like Christmas trees when running at night in heavy/congested shipping lanes.
In contrast destroyers are fast (often capable of more than 30 knots) and have some of the most expensive radars and other sensors in existence. A systemic problem may be destroyers might be concentrating so hard on detecting small fast things like fighter jets and anti-ship missiles that they may not be looking for 30,000 ton tankers or freighters.
Might destroyers be turning down their sensors to save on hotel load electricity use to save on gas/fuel use out of misplaced greenhouse gas concerns?
Or are destroyers being run on autopilots, wrongly programmed and/or malfunctioning?
There may be many more systemic weaknesses that have crept in like fewers months of watch keeping training over the last few years for junior USN officers. Also there may have been lower then usual numbers of senior officers on both destroyers' bridges. Senior officers who wanted to be fresh for the delicate manoeuvres involved when arriving in port in the early morning.