Feb 102013
Poor sea conditions forced the US Navy on Sunday to push back the operation to dismantle USS Guardian, a minesweeper ship, to pull it out from the Tubbataha Reef where it has been grounded since Jan. 17.

The US Navy team would continue the salvage operation when the bigger crane ship Jackson 25 arrives, said Coast Guard Palawan District chief Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista.

Earlier reports said the first crane ship Smit Borneo from Singapore encountered anchoring problems last Saturday, causing a delay in the start of the salvage operation.

“Smit Borneo is there but could not anchor due to weather. Its anchoring should be precise. It tried (to anchor) but so far, out of the four anchors, only one had a good bite at seabed,” said Evangelista.

After the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board approved the salvage plan crafted by the US Navy, Coast Guard commandant Rear Adm. Rodolfo Isorena announced on Wednesday the dismantling of the USS Guardian may start Sunday or Monday.

However, the operation hit a snag due to anchoring problem.
Citing information from US Navy officials, Evangelista said Jascon 25 departed Singapore around 4 p.m. Saturday and is due to sail directly to Tubbataha Reef.

He said the bigger crane ship is expected to arrive around 9 p.m. Friday.

The USS Guardian ran aground on Tubbataha Reef last Jan. 17, after a port call at Subic Bay, a former base of the US Navy.

Latest estimate showed that the grounding of the ship has damaged 4,000 square meters of reef, from the initial 1,000 square meters.

Pending the start of the cutting operations, Evangelista said, the Americans are to continue with the removal of small items aboard the USS Guardian. — LBG, GMA News

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