YOKOSUKA, Japan - In order to ensure the safety of the crew, most of the Sailors aboard the mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5) are being transferred to a support vessel. The Sasebo-based Guardian ran aground on Tubbataha Reef while transiting the Sulu Sea on Jan. 17.

Initial efforts to free Guardian on high tide were not successful. As a precautionary measure, 72 of 79 total crewmembers are currently being transferred by small boat to the MV C-Champion, a Military Sealift Command chartered ship. The transfer operation is expected to be complete at approximately 2 p.m., local time, Jan. 18.

A small complement of engineering and bridge personnel will remain aboard and work with a U.S. Navy team in an attempt to free Guardian with minimal environmental impact. The remaining seven Sailors, which include the commanding officer and executive officer, will also be transferred if conditions become unsafe.

The Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship had just completed a port call in Subic Bay, Olongapo City, and was en route to her next port of call when the grounding occurred. The Government of the Philippines was promptly informed of the incident and is being updated regularly.

The ship remains stuck on the reef, approximately 80 miles east-southeast of Palawan Island.

The cause of the grounding is under investigation.

For the latest updates, visit the U.S. 7th Fleet website.