New pictures of the USS Guardian released today by the U.S. Navy show the minesweeper still hard aground on the Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines.
The photos, taken during overflight assessments of the wreck on Jan. 22 and 23, show the vessel mainly intact but listing slightly and definitely still hard aground on the reef.
A Navy official has confirmed that the vessel is damaged and taking on water and will need to be lifted from the reef.
“The option that we hoped to be able to tow the ship off the reef is not available,” Rear Admiral Thomas Carney, head of the U.S. Navy’s logistics group in the western Pacific, told reporters. “It’s too badly damaged. It’s got hull penetrations in several places and there’s a significant amount of water inside the ship right now,” said Carney. The USNS Salvor is en route to the site to help with the salvage.
Before the operation to lift the Guardian can begin, salvors will have to remove the 15,000 gallons of fuel to mitigate the risk of any spills.
“The first priority is to get the fuel out of the ship as soon as possible,” Carney added.
A release by the Philippines Coast Guard indicated that there is currently no oil leakage/spillage despite the damage to the wooden hull and propeller. Its fuel tanks also appear to be intact.
The U.S. Navy has previously said that faulty digital chart data misplaced the location of Tubbataha Reef and caused the grounding. The charts have since been fixed and an investigation is ongoing.
The ship, with a crew of 80, had just completed a port call at Subic Bay in the Philippines, when the grounding occurred.
Jan. 22, 2013 – The mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5) sits aground on the Tubbataha Reef while the oceanographic survey ship USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62) and the Philippine Coast Guard navigational aid tender, BRP Corregidor (AE-891) cooperate in salvage efforts while minimizing environmental effects to the reef. (U.S. Navy photo)
Jan. 22, 2013 – U.S. Navy salvage assessment team members board the mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5). The ship ran aground on Tubbataha Reef on Jan. 17. (U.S. Navy photo)
Jan. 23, 2013 – Members of a U.S. Navy salvage assessment team work aboard USS Guardian (MCM 5). (U.S. Navy Photo)
Jan. 22, 2013 – A diver from the Philippine Coast Guard measures coral damages after the USS Guardian, a U.S. Navy minesweeper, ran aground at the Vicinity of South Islet in Tubbataha Reefs in Palawan province, west of Manila. An inspection team assessed that approximately 1,000 square meters of corals have been severely damaged due to the incident. Philippine Coast Guard Photo.
Jan. 24, 2013 – Malaysian tug Vos Apollo prepares for de-fueling operations near the grounded mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5) while a U.S. Navy small boat approaches with a salvage team. The U.S. Navy contracted Vos Apollo to assist with removing fuel from Guardian. No fuel has leaked since the grounding and all of the approximately 15,000 gallons onboard Guardian was safely transferred to Vos Apollo during two days of controlled de-fueling operations on Jan. 24 and Jan. 25. U.S. Navy photo