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Recovery Of Grounded USS Guardian Begins

Philippine diver assesses damage to Tubbataha Reef on January 22.
Philippine Coast Guard
Philippine diver assesses damage to Tubbataha Reef on January 22.

As the Navy continues its recovery efforts of the grounded USS Guardian off the coast of the Philippines, two ships that will aid in the rescue are en route.

Task Force Unit Guardian spokesman Lt. Cmdr. James Stockman wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes that the USNS Salvor (a Military Sealift Command salvage ship) and the Vos Apollo (a tug boat from Malaysia) will help with recovery of the USS Guardian. Stockman wrote that the Salvor should arrive Thursday local time, and Vos Apollo shortly after.

Furthermore, according to Stockman:

“The extent of the damage to the ship is currently being assessed. The U.S. Navy recognizes that Tubbataha Reef is a unique and treasured environment; we are taking all precautions to ensure that the recovery plan will have minimal environmental impact.”

As Home Post previously reported, the Guardian ran aground on Tubbataha Reef the morning of January 17 while transiting the Sulu Sea, approximately 80 miles east-southeast of Palawan Island.

The Transportation Secretary of the Philippines, Joseph Emilio Abaya, told the Philippine Star that the country is taking steps to minimize environmental damage to the Tubbataha Reef:

“Measures are being done to contain damage to corals, monitor possible oil spillage, and assess damage to the vessel. As of now, there is no indication of an oil spill, and the ship’s fuel tanks appear intact."

Early assessments from the Philippines show roughly 1,000 square meters of corals have been "severely" damaged.

The Stars and Stripes reported yesterday that the Philippines is fining the U.S. Navy for the grounding. Abaya echoed this sentiment, saying:

"It’s incumbent upon our government to file such a claim... The law doesn’t distinguish whether this was negligence or inadvertence or intentional. What is clear in the law is that we could claim damages – not really looking into the intent on how it happened."