MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - There was no oil leakage by the stuck US Navy vessel in Tubbataha Reef off the Sulu Sea, the Coast Guard said today.
"Its fuel tanks also appear to be intact," said Philippine Coast Guard Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said.
In contrast to the steel-hulled minesweepers of World War II, new minesweepers, such as the USS Guardian, were built mostly of wood with bronze and stainless steel fittings to minimize their magnetic signature, he explained.
Isorena said that the US Navy is currently conducting assessment of hazardous materials on board the USS Guardian to ensure nothing will spill within the area.
Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Armand Balilo said that the US Navy has decided to lift the American mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian from the heritage site Tubbataha Reef in Palawan where it ran aground a week ago. The Americans have already contracted a firm in Singapore "to lift and put USS Guardian on a salvage barge and bring it to a shipyard."
The Coast Guard earlier announced that the US Navy was considering three options to extricate the ship pulling it with the use of tugboats, lifting with the use of heavy-lift crane mounted on a barge ship, and dismantling or cutting it.
Officials have said that pulling USS Guardian may cause further damage to Tubbataha Reef while dismantling it may take a longer time and may be hazardous.
The best option now is to lift using a crane with high lifting capacity. The crane is expected to arrive the site on Jan. 30.
The Inspection Team assessed that approximately 1,000 square meters of corals have been severely damaged due to the incident.
After a port call in Subic, the US ship run aground in Tubbataha. on its way to the next port.
The Tubbataha Reef is considered as one of the best dives sites in the world having two coral atolls that harbor 600 species of fish, 360 species of corals, 11 species of sharks, 13 species of dolphins and whales, 100 species of birds and sea turtles. It was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in December 1993.