Michael Zennie / The London Daily Mail – 2013-01-29 23:21:58
PALAWAN (January 29, 2013) — Tubbataha Reef off the southern Philippines is home to some of the richest marine life on the planet. It’s much deserving of its world heritage site status. But it’s now under serious threat since a US Navy minesweeper ran aground on a coral wall on January 17th.
Al Jazeera’s Jamela Alindogan reports.
US Navy Will Hack Minesweeper to Pieces
To Remove it from Sensitive Reef near Philippines
Michael Zennie / The London Daily Mail
(January 29, 2013) — The US Navy will hack apart a multimillion-dollar minesweeper ship caught on a coral reef in the Philippines, rather than risk further damage to the sensitive ecosystem.
The USS Guardian has become a political and logistical nightmare for the Navy since it ran aground on January 17 in the Sulu Sea.
Navy engineers decided their only option is to destroy the 225-foot ship by cutting it up and hauling it away on a barge, instead of trying to drag it off the reef. The ship is 23 years old and one of just 14 of her type in the Navy.
The Philippine government is furious over the damage to the Tubbataha Reef, which is a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The government has demanded that the U.S. Navy do as much as possible to minimize damage to the coral.
‘Tubbataha Reef is a treasure to the Philippine people, we absolutely understand her environmental importance,’ Lieutenant Anthony Falvo, a spokesman for the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, told MailOnline.
Additionally, engineers worry that the ship — which has a wood and fiberglass bottom — might no longer be seaworthy after its hull was punctured by the coral.
It’s unclear how, exactly, the ship will be dismantled — it’s something that the Navy has not done in recent memory — or perhaps ever, experts say.
The Navy has ordered two massive crane ships and a barge from the Dutch contractor Smit International to clean up and haul away the Navy vessel. The Navy is still investigating how the ship, which is designed to seek and destroy marine mines, ran aground.
The ship has complex sonar systems that can detect mines beneath the surface of the water. It is unknown how the systems failed to detect the reef. The Navy has said its maps placed the Tubbataha Reef eight nautical miles off from its actual location.
Lieutenant Commander Mark Rice was in charge of the of the ship when she hit the reef as she was sailing between Puerto Princesa and Indonesia on a routine patrol.
None of the 79 sailors about the ship were injured and all but ten of the crew was returned to the forward-deployment base in Sasebo, Japan.
Those ten sailors, including Lt Commander Rice, remained behind aboard the USS Mustin — a guided missile destroyer that is overseeing the cleanup operation.
Lt Falvo said the Navy would determine whether Lt Commander Rice will face disciplinary action after it concludes its investigation of the crash.
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