uss guardian aground

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – A U.S. Navy investigation to assess the circumstances surrounding the USS Guardian (MCM 5) grounding that occurred in Philippine waters will include information on faulty navigation chart data that misplaced the location of Tubbataha Reef.

The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) today provided preliminary findings of a review on Digital Nautical Charts (DNC) that contain inaccurate navigation data and may have been a factor in the Guardian grounding that occurred in the Sulu Sea on Jan. 17 local.

Since DNC mapping is used for safe navigation by Guardian and other U.S. Navy ships, Navigator of the Navy Rear Adm. Jonathan White also today released precautionary guidance to all Fleet and ship commanders. White’s message states, “initial review of navigation data indicates an error in the location of Tubbataha Reef” on the digital map.

“While the erroneous navigation chart data is important information, no one should jump to conclusions,” said U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Darryn James. “It is critical that the U.S. Navy conduct a comprehensive investigation that assesses all the facts surrounding the Guardian grounding.”

The Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship had just completed a port call in Subic Bay and was en route to Indonesia and then on to Timor-Leste to participate in a training exercise when the grounding occurred. Guardian remains stuck on Tubbataha Reef, approximately 80 miles east-southeast of Palawan Island.

U.S. 7th Fleet ships are on scene along with several support vessels to conduct salvage operations that minimize environmental effects to the reef.

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  • Mark Bigelow

    I knew this was coming; the Navy always has an excuse for collisions, groundings, etc. The real problem is their deck officers spend more time on staff jobs than conning ships leaving them much less qualified than their merchant or foreign navy counterparts.

  • Mike

    Mmm, we are taught to not rely on electronic navigation charts, and that without redundant systems, to always fall back on traditional paper charts. In fact, this is an IMO and Flag State requirement for all of us navigating the oceans, commercially or for pleasure. It seems that according to this article the Navy does not abide by international regulations regarding charting systems, or am I missing something?

  • john

    anybody ells think they could’ve just looked out the window? isolated white breakers usually being a sign of shallow water and all..

  • Bob Nerup

    It is a very broad brush when you say the Navy does not abide…. There was certainly errors made here and good seamanship practices were not followed but to say THE NAVY and to be all inclusive is unfair and lacks credibility.

  • Frank Burt

    I doubt if this will make any difference for the skipper of this vessel. The Navy has been known to sack officers just for having bad Karma. The brass tend to be a superstitious lot. And as Robert noted, he either didn’t rely on manual plotting as back-up or botched it. Either way, he’s screwed.

  • bosunj

    Yet when one reads one is bathed in the glory of DNC and the meaninglessness of paper charts and lampooned for keeping a proper watch and log.

  • Stern watch

    To those crying that the ship didn’t look out the windows or maintain a proper lookout: The ship ran aground at 2 am…I doubt the white breakers would look any different than the rest of the ocean at that time….completely black.

    • Liam Toner

      The breaking reef would have been visble on the radar. There is also a small island there which would also be on the radar.
      “Bad workmen tend to blame their tools”

      • Bob Couttie

        The sea was quite rough at the time so breakers may have been difficult to see.

  • Damn Yankee

    I’m sure there were lookouts, but the chain of command on the bridge of a Navy ship is far more insulated than a merchant vessel. As for not following IMO regulations in regards to charts, IT’s THE NAVY! They make their own rules. This time it bit them in the ass

  • Capt Bob

    I hope the Navy is reconsidering bringing back Celestial Navigation to the Naval Academy. They stopped and went total Electronic.

  • Will Parker

    As much of a boneheaded maneuver that this was, and as much as I agree with the value of learning CelNav both as a backup means of navigation and as a way to understand how modern positioning systems work… someone explain to me how it would have helped in this case??? They had just left port and were coasting. If anything, this was a piloting error, and a consequence of neglecting paper charts and redundant, traditional navigation. Bringing back CelNav, as beneficial as it would probably be, is not the solution to this kind of error. Having cadets at the Naval Academy take more than ONE term of terrestrial/electronic navigation (which is even mashed together with Rules) would probably be a lot more helpful.

    • tom carney

      Besides the redundancy, it hopefully does a better job of showing the sailor he is one with and dependent on the sea, the sky, the weather, the universe and his electronic machinery cannot isolate him either from those elements or from harm should his GPS,SINS, whatever fail him. It is also useful knowledge in a lifeboat situation.

  • Scylla

    I see she is now high on the reef and beam on to the swell – not looking good.

  • SkcRet

    The first thing to happen immediately is to bring the ship’s position perpendicular to the reef line, the bow facing the reef–just as it was during the first hour of the incident. Rational: (1) provide a lesser sail area of exposure against the battering wind for now, and (2) prepare the hull early for towing it back out to deeper water stern first (isn’t this the method?) when the tide comes up high. Send in Hercules helo to drop (est.) 500 feet kevlar or stronger lightweight rope, one end tied to the ship’s fantail bollard(?), the other end relayed over to a prospective towing vessel. Begin the tow process when tide has peaked. This is assuming water integrity is at 100%; with anything less than that occurring, time to call a floating drydock in from nearby Manila or Cebu. Bottom line is, can’t leave the Guardian stucked forever in a world-heritage sanctuary. It’s an eyesore, plain and simple. After all, what’s the Guardian guarding out there? Becomes a joke for years to come. And it’s a shame and blythe to the USN whom I’ve served (8 ships in 23 year career) though w/o ever wanting an ESWS pin.
    Navy experts need to get onboard the ship with caution now and begin rigging anchor system (is ship’s power present?) to slowly swing the ship clockwise and, once attained, steady it until ready to tow back out.
    This evolution can be done, just takes some time and expeditious resources. I wish I can be there (and mind you I’m offended by some comment dare calling our sailors “monkey”).
    Let’s keep our hopes high that necessary environmental damage is kept to a minimum, but got to get that ship outta there no matter what it’ll take. Thank you

  • SkcRet

    It is possible that the ship’s propeller and shaft are now OOC, with the former being the part that is a game-stopper, stucked/buried deep into the corals and making it hard to detach the vessel from its location now. Like the USS Port Royal, the propellers may need to be detached by divers, and salvaged. Fiberglass hull material is a slippery material (isn’t it?) and should help the process of dis-engaging off the reef surface.

  • candeadmenvotetwice

    i think the’re watching porno…geezz probably they forgot the good seamanship.

  • tom carney

    Has anyone done a study on the number of groundings and collsions per (mile, hour, whatever is the relevant number) for all vessels and for USN vessels since basic seamanship requierments has been kind of compromised per the above comments? By the way I am not the Admiral…

  • Chuck i

    I’ve never sailed a ship in my life (I was Army) but I wonder if the Navy was even in charge of the ship at the time of the grounding. I would think through a world treasure they’d have a pilot, as do they in many places in the world for prevention of this very thing. This seems like putting a rookie driver in the seat at the Isle of Mann on race day without his having any knowledge of the course. If there was no pilot, then the American Navy might not be the sole culpable party. (IMHO, of course)

  • Capt Peter

    50 years at sea. Had to do the ECDIS course. Passed the exam. Things that stuck in my mind. 1)Do not rely on ANY electronic aid. 2)Look out of the window. 3)Do not forget basic principles of Navigation. 4) Remember that ECDIS was designed by boffins, developed in different ways by many companies, dispalys electronic charts that look nothing like conventional charts and is hypnotic. Think of the un noticed passage of time when you work on a computer.
    Conclusion. You have a chart, a pencil, parallel rules, an azimuth ring and, hopefully, brains. USE THEM.

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