The Wednesday morning accident between the USS Essex and the USNS Yukon occurred 120 from the coast of Southern California as the Essex approached the Yukon to refuel, reported the Associated Press.
The United States Navy said that there were no injuries and no fuel or oil spilled into the ocean.
The USNS Yukon had 82 crew members on board while the USS Essex had 982.
This is the third time the Yukon has been in an accident since it began sailing the seas, but a first for the Essex. In 2000, the Yukon hit another San Diego-based ship, the Denver. The Navy said the accident was due to human error. Six months earlier, the Yukon hit a civilian cargo ship as it docked in Dubai's Jebel Ali port in the United Arab emirates, reported KFMB.
However, it was the Essex, an 844-foot-long military warship, that experienced the steering malfunction, reported KGTV.
It's not easy, that's why professionals do it, said Capt. Joseph DeNigro, who retired from the Navy after 28 years. But it's very rare to have an occurrence such as this.
While DeNigro said that refueling a ship at sea is routine, it does take careful precision especially when there are rough ocean conditions.
The replenishment ship maintains a steady course and the other ship maneuvers in behind it and comes alongside and takes on fuel, he said.
The USS Essex had spent the past 12 years in Sasebo, Japan and was part of the Navy's Expeditionary Strike Group 7. It was traveling with a new crew that boarded the ship for the trip to California, reported the AP. As part of standard Navy procedures, the original crew swapped ships with another assault ship, the Bonhomme Richard.
After the crash, the Essex and Yukon continued on their way to San Diego, despite the damages. The Navy said that neighter the fuel tanks nor mechanical systems of either ship were affected. The Yukon arrived in San Diego after 3 p.m. on Wednesday and the Essex arrived 9 a.m. on Thursday.
While both ships reported some damage, no one was injured, there was no fuel spilled and the ships' fuel tanks and systems were not compromised, the U.S. Navy's Third Fleet said in a statement, reported KFMB.
A spokesman for the Navy said the crash and the damage was still being assessed, reported the AP.
Martimes Afety consultant, James W. Allen said the ships most likely just bounced off of each other. However, this sometimes can present problems because it can be a pretty hard bump that can bend metal and cause dents, reported the AP.
They were probably so close there was no time to respond when the steering went out, said Allen, who served 30 years in the Coast Guard.
The Essex is scheduled to partake in exercises of Hawaii this summer. It will then go for a complete overhaul and review at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard, reported KGTV.