USS Guardian's Tubbataha grounding traced to 'lack of leadership'

by Kathlyn dela Cruz,

Posted at Jun 21 2013 03:29 PM | Updated as of Jun 21 2013 11:32 PM

This handout photo taken and released on January 25, 2013 by Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) shows an aerial shot of the US navy minesweeper, the USS Guardian (right) at Tubbataha reef after it ran aground in western Palawan, while another US vessel is anchored meters away. The US Navy said it needs to siphon thousands of litres of oil before removing the ship.

MANILA -- "Lack of leadership" among the USS Guardian crew is one of the reasons why the minesweeper ended up destroying and getting stuck at Tubbataha Reef last January, according to the results released by the US Navy.

In a 160-page document, US Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Cecil D. Haney said the "USS Guardian leadership and watch teams failed to adhere to prudent, safe, and sound navigation principles" which would have given them enough time to prevent the ship's grounding last January 17.

Haney said the lack of leadership resulted to the crew's disregard of visual and electronic cues in the hours leading up to the grounding of the vessel.

Haney added that relying on the Digital Nautical Charts (DNC), which later turned out to be inaccurate, "ultimately led to a degradation of the ship's navigation ability."

While calling the USS Guardian's grounding at the world heritage site a "tragic mishap," Haney also commended the crew for their "heroic efforts to save the ship."

Haney also praised the Navy rescue swimmers for ensuring the safe evacuation of all crew members.

The US Navy Pacific Fleet, meanwhile, is still studying whether to mete administrative sanctions against the relieved officers of the USS Guardian.

Lieutenant Commodore Mark Rice, the commanding officer; Lieutenant Daniel Tyler, the executive officer/navigator; the assistant navigator; and the officer of the deck at the time of the incident were relieved of their duties last April 3.

The American minesweeper had just completed a port call in Subic Bay and was bound for Indonesia and then for Timor-Leste to participate in a training exercise when the grounding at the Tubbataha Reef occurred.

The 68-meter US Navy ship, which damaged around 4,000 square meters of coral reefs, was removed from the protected marine site last March 30 after it was dismantled for easier removal.

The Tubbataha Management Office has assessed a $1.4 million fine or about P60 million to the US Navy for the damage caused to the protected reef.