After last month's collision of French and British nuclear submarines in the Atlantic, two US Navy vessels collided near Iran. Although February's incident didn't result in any injuries, the current collision slightly injured 15 sailors and caused an oil spill in the Strait of Hormuz, which lies between the United Arab Emirates and Iran, linking the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, and is heavily used by oil tankers. (See: UK, French nuclear subs collide in Atlantic)
"The collision between USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS New Orleans (LPD 18) occurred at approximately 1:00am (local time)," the Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet said. "Fifteen sailors aboard the Hartford were slightly injured and returned to duty. No personnel aboard New Orleans were injured.''
The Hartford is a nuclear submarine while the New Orleans is an amphibious ship. There was significant damage to the "sail", or tower-like structure atop the submarine, the officials said. The New Orleans lost 25,000 gallons (90,000 litres) of diesel fuel from one of three punctures to its hull, the Navy said.
"Obviously the Strait of Hormuz is a very active shipping lane," Navy spokesman Lieutenant. Nate Christensen said. "We are trying to evaluate the extent of the spill." He said there were about 200 sailors in the sub and 1,000 sailors and Marines aboard the ship.
The Navy was determining where the vessels should head for repairs, and the collision was under investigation. The fuel spill has not affected other vessels in the strait, Christensen said. Both vessels were headed to ports in the Persian Gulf to stock up on provisions and allow for some recreation.
The Strait of Hormuz, less than 100 kilometres at its widest point, separates Oman from Iran and is the gateway into the oil-rich Gulf. An estimated 40 per cent of the world's crude oil passes through the strait on the way to market. Ships from the US Fifth Fleet, working alongside US Naval Forces Central Command, patrol a wide strategically as well as commercially important area of eastern Africa, the Middle East and Southwest Asia.