Of 3 options: towing, lifting and dismantling, the US Navy and Task Force Tubbataha have agreed on the lifting option as the best method to get out of Tubbataha Reef the US minesweeper which is still grounded since January 17.
By lifting the 68-meter USS Guardian will be hoisted, lifted, and loaded by crane ships into barges or other ships contracted by the US government and paid for the purpose.
Commander of the Coast Guard Palawan District. Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista said the arrival of one of the crane ships Smit Borneo is expected anytime today by the coast guard and salvaging would start at once.
Strong winds and rough seas have hampered salvaging work on the United States minesweeper which ran aground at the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park, officials said on Saturday.
Coast Guard officials said they have no time table when to complete removal of the ill-fated ship because of the wind and sea conditions.
“There is no time table for the salvage operation. The controlling factor is really the sea condition,” said Commodore Evangelista
He said bad weather also caused the delay of the arrival of one of the crane ships contracted to help extricate the US Navy minesweeper stuck in the World Heritage site. The sea is very rough in the afternoon because of the northeasterly winds.
Evangelista said that salvaging work is in full blast but work is hampered by bad sea condition. US officials don’t want delay in the operation as this would mean additional cost to the rental of salvage ships.
He said salvage operation would be fine on March, but work will proceed this month. Salvage operation will stop only for safety reasons, he added.
Wikuipedia disclosed the following information:
1) On 17 January 2013 following a port call and fuel stop in Subic, Guardian proceeded across the Sulu Sea and entered the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park;
2) After appearing on Park radar, at approximately 0400 hours local time Guardian was radioed a warning by park officials that the vessel had entered a restricted area;
3) Park officials claim their lawful warning was met with disregard by Guardian, which radioed back to bring complaint to the U.S. Embassy;
4) Guardian ran aground onTubbataha Reef shortly thereafter about 130 kilometres southeast of Palawan, Philippines;
5) At the time of the accident the ship was travelling from Subic Bay in the Philippines to another port;
6) Philippine officials later estimated the damage to the reef at 1,000 square meters;
7) The U.S. Navy evacuated all 79 crew members from the minesweeper to the USNS Bowditch and MV C Champion on 18 January;
8) The guided missile destroyer USS Mustin, the oceanographic survey ship USNS Bowditch and the rescue and salvage ship USNS Salvor, and Philippine navy, coast guard vessels and tugboats have already been in the area to help in the intended extraction,
9) 15,000 gallons of diesel fuel was extracted from the tanks in the Guardian to other ships that were on station and refilled with seawater to keep the vessel stable. This was done while waiting for the crane ships from Singapore to arrive;
10) Dry food stores and the personal effects of the Guardian’s crew were removed as well;
11) Salvage experts began to reinforce the wood-and-fiberglass hull of the minesweeper with Kevlar lines to mitigate stresses from waves hitting the vessel;
12) Guardian now rests about 20 to 30 meters from the edge of the reef. Originally, only its bow was on the reef, but waves have now pushed the entire ship onto it;
13) On 20 January 2013, Navy Times reported the ship is taking on water in multiple places and is experiencing a slight list to port, etc.
Nobody wants the disaster to happen. Everyone is leaving no stones unturned to solve the problem. Salvage experts have pointed out unfavorable weather condition as the main roadblock to the completion of the salvaging effort, so let’s pray and extend our patience for the rough seas to calm down. Indeed when the wind and the seas calm down, lifting of the ship will be facilitated and other salvaging activities will not be delayed.