The collision occurred at 9:20 a.m. Wednesday about 120 miles from the Southern California coast while the Essex was preparing for a routine refueling.
Both the Essex and the USNS Yukon reported no injuries and no oil spilled, and both continued to their destinations without assistance, Stars and Stripes reported.
The Essex, a 21-year old amphibious assault vessel, is one of many Navy ships that no longer meet the requirements for combat readiness. In the past two years, the Navy determined nearly one-fifth of its ships are substandard.
The ship was on its way to its new home port in San Diego after having been deployed to the Sasebo naval base in Japan for 12 years on humanitarian missions.
Toward the end of its time in the region, the ship failed to complete two missions in a seven-month period due to maintenance issues. A Navy investigation also revealed crew negligence and failing systems contributed to the accidental death of Petty Officer 1st Class Regan Young, who was struck by a ballistic missile launcher in November.