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US Navy proposes to dismember stuck minesweeper

MANILA, Philippines - The United States (US) Navy is now planning to dismember instead of lifting its grounded warship from Tubbataha Reef in Palawan.

This came up on Wednesday following an assessment that lifting the USS Guardian and loading it to a huge barge may be too risky considering the ship's present condition.

The warship had incurred major damage on its wooden hull and runs the risk of disintegrating once it is lifted from its present location. Major cracks were also seen inside the warship.

“That salvage plan to remove USS Guardain is heading that way,” informed sources said, citing latest proposals by their US counterparts to safely remove the stuck minesweeper from the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sulu Sea.

Sources said the proposed salvage plan still needs an approval from the Joint Task Force Tubbataha, headed by Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Undersecretary and former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Eduardo Oban, Jr.

The doomed US minesweeper have been stripped of its ordnance and weapons systems. Defueling was also conducted to prevent an oil spill and to lessen the possible damage to the country’s protected marine park once the actual salvage operations commence.

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“The dismembering plan being proposed by the US Navy needs further study and approval of the Joint Task Force Tubbataha,” said sources privy to the latest proposal of the US Navy.

Three options were earlier considered to safely remove USS Guardian from its location -- sitting parallel of the South Atoll.

These options were to pull, to lift or simply dismember the warship, which as of Wednesday has been assessed to be beyond economic repair.

Initial monitoring showed that 1,000 square meters of coral reefs have been destroyed due to the US warship's grounding.

As a minesweeper, USS Guardian is designed and fitted with iron, wooden and fiber glass hull to reduce magnetic signatures while on mine countermeasure operations.

“Kasi kung lahat bakal and hull ng barko, ang sarili nya mismo ang made-detect niya while on mine sweeping operations. Lahat naman ng minesweepers are designed that way,” another source said.

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