Philippines Will Seek Damages for U.S. Navy Ship Grounding

The USS Guardian Remains Grounded on a Reef in the Unesco World Heritage Site

By MarEx 2013-01-23 12:25:00

The Philippines is seeking damages after a navy ship ran aground on a coral reef in the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday.

The USS Guardian remains trapped on the Tubbataha Reef about 80 miles southeast of the western island of Palawan. Seventy-two of the ship’s 79 sailors have been transferred to nearby vessels MV C-Champion and USNS Bowditch. Philippine officials say the minesweeper ran aground on a coral reef in the Unesco World Heritage Site, an area they say is restricted and requires permits for entry.

Philippine Foreign Undersecretary Raul Hernandez says Manila will conduct an investigation into the damage and the United States’ legal obligation. Penalties will be determined based on the amount of damage to the reef. Additional fines may be issued for entering the area without a permit.
As of Friday morning the grounding had not produced any pollution or oil spillage.

Tubbataha Marine Park’s superintendent says the Sasebo, Japan based ship is laying on a 10 meter section of the reef and strong wind and waves are pushing the vessel further onto the reef causing additional damage. Park officials also claim that the grounding was not reported and park rangers discovered the vessel. The U.S. Navy says that the Government of Philippines was notified of the incident promptly.

Some engineers and bridge personnel remain onboard to assist with refloating. Initial efforts to refloat the vessel have proved unsuccessful, but the Navy says it will continue to work to ensure the ship is removed quickly and with the least possible impact to  the environment. Admiral Scott Swift, U.S. Seventh Fleet commander said “several support vessels have arrived and all steps are being taken to minimize environmental effects while ensuring the crew’s continued safety.”

The U.S. Navy says the USS Guardian was on her way to her next scheduled port of call when the grounding occurred. According to a statement from the Navy’s 7th Fleet the vessel, “had just completed a port call in Subic Bay, Olongapo City and was en route to her next port of call when the grounding occurred.”