PEARL HARBOR - After running aground on Tubbataha Reef near the Philippines, the Navy has determined that the 23-year old USS Guardian (MCM 5) will be dismantled and safely removed from the reef in sections.
Naval architecture and salvage experts have assessed that attempts to remove Guardian intact, such as by towing or pulling it off the reef, could possibly cause more damage to the reef and the ship's hull, and most likely result in the vessel breaking up or sinking.
"Guardian is badly damaged and with the deteriorating integrity of the ship, the weight involved, and where it is grounded on the reef, dismantling in sections is the only supportable option," said Capt. Darryn James, U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman. "We have the right team of experienced professionals to conduct this complex operation and to ensure that it is done safely while minimizing damage to the surrounding marine environment."
There were no injuries when Guardian ran aground Jan. 17 following a port visit to Subic Bay while in transit to Indonesia. Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet has ordered an investigation to assess the circumstances and facts surrounding the grounding.
No fuel has leaked since the grounding and all of the approximately 15,000 gallons aboard Guardian were safely transferred off the ship during two days of controlled de-fueling operations last week.
Since Guardian's grounding, the Navy has been working meticulously to salvage any reusable equipment, retrieve the crew's personal effects, and remove any potentially harmful materials including petroleum-based products and human wastewater. USS Mustin (DDG 89), USNS Bowditch, M/V Trabajador, USNS Salvor (T-ARS 52) and the Malaysian tug VOS Apollo remain on scene supporting the salvage operation.
It is expected that the first Navy contracted floating crane from Singapore will arrive in the next several days and that the dismantling operation will take more than one month. The Navy has presented a dismantling plan to the Philippine Coast Guard that maintains the floating cranes necessary for this operation in deeper water in order to minimize coral damage to Tubbataha Reef.
"We continue to work closely at all levels with the Philippine Coast Guard, Navy and government officials and we are grateful for the support we have received to remove Guardian and minimize further damage to the reef," said James.