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Salvaging operations for US ship may start next week

Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - February 3, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The salvaging operations for the USS Guardian that ran aground in Tubbataha Reef could begin next week with the expected arrival of the salvage ships, a Coast Guard official said yesterday.

Coast Guard Palawan district chief Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista said the expected arrival of Smit Borneo, one of the towing vessels equipped with crane from Singapore, is expected to arrive in Puerto Princesa today to begin the salvage operations on Wednesday.

Evangelista, however, said the salvage operations might be delayed due to the strong northeast monsoon blowing in the area.

He foresees the salvage operations might begin in March.

“We would have a full blast operation but this might be hampered by unfavorable sea conditions and we might have to stop because of safety reasons. We expect the sea condition to improve starting by March,” he said.

Evangelista said they might enjoy more uninterrupted working days during the months of March to July, which are considered “diving months,” because of the favorable sea conditions in Tubbataha Reef.

He also said the US government has no intention of delaying the removal of the ship since it would only mean additional financial costs to them.

The US hired the services of salvaging ships M/T Trabajador 1 of Malayan Towage and Salvaging Corp. and the Vos Apollo of a Malaysian company based in Singapore. The US Navy’s USNS Salvor is also at the site.

While waiting for the arrival of Smit Borneo, the three salvaging vessels at the site have been busy with preliminary works by removing the equipment, furniture and fixtures from the ship.

As of yesterday, Evangelista said they have removed all the 15,000 liters of automotive diesel oil from the Guardian as well as other materials and gears in the ship that included life rafts, life rings, cables and portable tanks.

About 20 percent of the officers and crews’ personal items and 20 percent of the furniture have been taken out of the Guardian.

Evangelista added there has been a delay in the arrival of the Smit Borneo because of rough sea conditions and slow travel speed of five knots.

“Once it arrives at Puerto Princesa City, it would undergo the procedural Customs, Immigration, Quarantine Security inspection. It would then be loaded with provisions so that it would not often travel back and forth the site and Puerto Princesa that would consume more time,” he said.

He said the crew of Smit Borneo would be supplied with food provisions to last for 100 days.

COAST GUARD COAST GUARD PALAWAN COMMODORE ENRICO EFREN EVANGELISTA EVANGELISTA MALAYAN TOWAGE AND SALVAGING CORP PUERTO PRINCESA PUERTO PRINCESA CITY QUARANTINE SECURITY SMIT BORNEO TUBBATAHA REEF
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