3 options eyed in removing US Navy ship from Tubbataha

By Jaime Laude, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 24 2013 07:29 AM | Updated as of Jan 24 2013 08:57 PM

MANILA, Philippines - To pull, to lift or to dismember.

These are now the three options being considered to remove a disabled USS Guardian, a US Navy mine countermeasure warship now stuck at Tubbataha Reef, a joint task force formed to salvage the stricken vessel said on Wednesday.

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Spokesman Commander Armand Balilo, speaking on behalf the joint Task Force, also said it will be known on Thursday what option would be taken to remove the USS Guardian now sitting atop parallel to the South Atoll, one week after it ran aground in the area. The Tubbataha reef is a United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization-declared heritage site.

“The Joint Task Force will be meeting... (in Palawan) to decide which option would be the safest way to remove the stuck US warship ,” Balido said.

He said the first option is to remove the ship by way of pulling and towing it away from its present location. The second option is to lift the disabled vessel using heavy cranes and load it into a pre-positioned US Navy salvage barge.

The third and final option is to simply dismember the warship by cutting the vessel into pieces.

All these three options will be tackled today by the joint Task Force Tubbataha headed by US Navy Admiral Thomas Carney, commander of the Western Pacific Command's logistics group based in Singapore, Department of Transportation and Communication Undersecretary Eduardo Oban, Philippine Coast Guard commandant, Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena and Naval Forces West (Navforwest) commander, Commodore Jospeh Rustom Padilla.

“The bottom line in our planned salvage operation which is likely to start anytime from today, is the safety of the our personnel and the prevention of additional damage to the corals and other marine life in the area,” Balilo said.

Initial survey showed that at least 1000 square meters of coral reefs have been destroyed as a result of the grounding Thursday last week.

Filipino and US dive experts dispatched the other day to the impact area were able collect relevant data that would be of help for the conduct of salvage operation.

Other informed sources said that US sailors found several holes on the disabled warship' hull and seawater have already flooded several portions inside the vessel.

Sources also said that ill-fated vessel is now being stripped of its load and equipment, including its fuel and other lubricants which are being safely siphoned, to lighten and prepare the ship for any mode of salvage operation.

Also, a PCG maritime anti-disaster vessel, BRP Corregidor along with the USS Bowditch, an oceanographic US survey ship, jointly conducted an anti-marine disaster drill on Wednesday in the area to caution possible environmental impact in the country’s declared marine protected area.