US Navy: Ship run aground is complete loss

2013-01-31 11:00
The USS Guardian, a US Navy minesweeper, which has run aground off Tubbataha Reef. (AFP Wescom/ AP)

The USS Guardian, a US Navy minesweeper, which has run aground off Tubbataha Reef. (AFP Wescom/ AP)

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Honolulu — The US Navy plans to dismantle a minesweeper that ran aground on a coral reef off the Philippines because the ship is a complete loss and because removing it intact would cause more damage to the reef and the ship's hull, a spokesperson said on Wednesday.

There's also a chance the vessel might break up or sink if crews tried to remove it without taking it apart first, US Pacific Fleet spokesperson Captain Darryn James said.

Limiting damage to the coral, which is part of a national marine park, is important to the Navy, James said.

"We really do care about being good stewards of the environment," he said by telephone from Pacific Fleet headquarters in Pearl Harbour.

The Navy has presented the ship removal plan to the Philippines, which is reviewing it.

"We're working very closely with the Philippine coast guard, with their navy and their government personnel. We've been grateful for their support as we all work together to remove guardian and minimise further damage to the reef," James said.

Beyond economical repair


It's expected to take over a month to dismantle the USS Guardian, which ran aground before dawn on 17 January.

Crews have already removed 56 779.5 litres of fuel from the ship. They've also taken off hundreds of litres of lubricating oil and paint. They'll be removing human wastewater and other materials that could harm the environment, James said.

The US Navy is hiring floating cranes to help with the removal. A contractor in Singapore is sending the cranes, which should arrive on site in a few days.

The Navy originally said the Guardian would be lifted by crane onto a barge and taken to a shipyard. But now the Navy says the ship is "beyond economical repair".

No one was injured when the ship ran aground at the reef in the Tubbataha National Marine Park. The park is a World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea, about 643.71km southwest of Manila.

Investigation

The Guardian was on its way to Indonesia after making a rest and refuelling stop in Subic Bay, a former American naval base west of Manila.

Vice Admiral Scott Swift, the US 7th Fleet Commander based in Yokosuka, Japan, has ordered an investigation into the grounding.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said last week that the US Navy must explain how the ship got off course. He said the Navy would face fines for damaging the environment.

The Navy and the US ambassador to the Philippines, Harry K Thomas, have apologised for the grounding and promised to co-operate with its close ally.

- AP
Read more on:    philippines  |  us
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