USS Guardian Grounding

US Navy minesweeper USS Guardian, which ran aground on Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea the previous week, has turned 90 degrees due to strong currents. According reports the ship’s movement may have caused more damage to the reef’s fragile corals. The grounding occurred while the vessel was en route to Indonesia to participate in a training exercise. The vessel’s crew has been safely evacuated.

2013.01.22 - USS Guardian Grounding Figure 1

The US Navy has sent out four salvage tugboats to study how to remove the ship from the area. The Philippine Navy on the other hand has sent out three boats and a few Philippine Coast Guard boats to stand by in case the US Navy needs assistance, said the report. Additionally an oil spill response team has been dispatched to the area. Faulty digital navigation chart data may have caused the vessel to ran aground, according to the US Navy.

The Philippine authorities are cooperating with the US Navy in order to have the vessel safely released from the coral reef.

2013.01.22 - USS Guardian Grounding Figure 2

The initial grounding position of the minesweeper on January 17, 2013

2013.01.22 - USS Guardian Grounding Figure 3

The initial grounding position of the minesweeper on January 17, 2013

2013.01.22 - USS Guardian Grounding Figure 4

USS Guardian turns 90 degrees due to strong waves

Update 1: 23 Jan. 2013

According to Philippino coast guard 1,000 square metres of coral reef in a World Heritage Site in the Philippines were damaged by a US Navy ship that ran aground in the marine sanctuary. Angelique Songco, superintendent of the Tubbataha Management Office stated that the US Navy would be fined an estimated 24 million pesos (600 000 dollars), which covers the penalty for the damage to the reef and restoration cost.

Update 2: 24 Jan. 2013

According to the US Navy the vessel is badly damaged to be towed away and thousands of litres of oil should be removed from the minesweeper.

Rear Adm Thomas Carney, commander of the Navy’s Logistics Group in the Western Pacific stated that the vessel has hull penetrations in several places, and there’s a significant amount of water inside the ship.

The Philippine government may fine the US Navy for unauthorised entry into the protected reef area and for any damage incurred to the protected site.

Update 3: 25 Jan. 2013

Maritime Connector reported today that according to the Philippine Coast Guard two crane ships from Singapore have been dispatched to the area in order to extract the USS Guardian from Tubbataha Reef in Palawan.

The following video shows the Tubbataha Reefs – Sulu Sea, Philippines.

Update 4: 29 Jan. 2013

The previous days the US Navy released the following press release

To prevent potential environmental damage, a U.S. Navy-led salvage team on Jan. 25 completed removing all diesel fuel from the tanks of the mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5), which ran aground on the Tubbataha Reef one week earlier.

No fuel has leaked since the grounding and approximately 15,000 gallons was safely transferred to the contracted Malaysian tug Vos Apollo during controlled defueling operations that occurred over the last two days.

“One of our priorities was to get the fuel out of the ship in order to minimize environmental damage,” said Rear Adm. Tom Carney, the on-scene commander of the salvage operation.

Carney spoke about the salvage operations during a joint press conference with Philippine Coast Guard Rear Adm. Rodolfo Isorena in Puerto Princesa, Palawan on Jan. 24. The U.S. Navy is working in close cooperation with the Philippine Coast Guard and Navy, and assessment teams continue to inspect the condition of the vessel and the reef
in order to develop a plan to safely remove the ship.

“The problem is very complex, and both Naval architects and salvage engineers are working together to develop plans,” Carney said. “The nature of the shipboard damage makes it a difficult operation, and the dynamic nature of the environment increases those challenges.”

Two heavy lift ship-borne cranes have already been contracted to support the salvage operations and are due to arrive at the scene around Feb. 1.

“The option that we had hoped to tow the ship off the reef is not available,” said Carney. “The ship is too badly damaged.”

With a primary mission to detect and counter mines, Guardian has a wooden hull covered in fiberglass similar to surfboards. The hull has been punctured and several areas of the ship have been flooded. The repeated pounding of heavy seas on the ship, which hampered recovery efforts in the days immediately following the grounding, has also
resulted in the loss of much of the fiberglass coating on the port side.

Carney stated his top priorities are to ensure no one is injured during salvage operations while carefully protecting the important natural environment of Tubbataha Reef. “I have been to the Philippines many times before and truly understand the reef is a national treasure and very important to the Philippine people,” Carney said.

2013.01.22 - USS Guardian Grounding Figure 5

Update 5: 31 Jan. 2013

According to US Navy Officials USS Guardian will have to be dismantled and removed in sections. The salvage plan is still under review by the Philippine Coast Guard, but it likely means the end for the 23-year-old USS Guardian.

2013.01.22 - USS Guardian Grounding Figure 6

Update 6: 27 Mar. 2013

Operations for the dismantling and sectioning the hull of the grounded mine countermeasures ship UUS Guardian have begun. The bow section was safely lifted and removed from Tubbataha Reef to an awaiting barge on March 26 2013. The operations are being conducted in close coordination with the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Navy, and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.

According to Officials the ship will be completely removed from the reef until 1st April 2013. According to the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) the minesweeper’s auxiliary machinery room was removed on Wednesday, a day after the bow was removed.

The remaining sections will be removed over the coming days as weather and safety permits.

2013.01.22 - USS Guardian Grounding Figure 7

2013.01.22 - USS Guardian Grounding Figure 8

USS Guardian dismantling and sectioning the hull.

2013.01.22 - USS Guardian Grounding Figure 9

USS Guardian dismantling and sectioning the hull.

2013.01.22 - USS Guardian Grounding Figure 10

Sailors remove the exhaust funnel from USS Guardian.

Photos source: Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (AFP-WESCOM)

Sources: Maritime Connector, GMA News, NBC News, Times Live, BBC, Stars & Stripes, Naval Today

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