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US ship salvage to take 2-3 weeks

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Barring bad weather, the operation to extricate the USS Guardian from a shelf of corals in Tubbataha is likely to be over in two to three weeks as salvage vessels begin to take positions at the site, the chief of the Philippine Coast Guard said yesterday.

Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said actual salvage operation is expected to begin “by Sunday or Monday” and that they hope “the weather would cooperate.”

He said they had hoped to complete the salvage operation by April but stressed, “this would depend on sea and weather conditions in the area.”

“There is a possibility that the date for the completion would advance or be late,” he said.

He also said a crane ship from Singapore, the Smit Borneo, is expected to complete its pre-positioning today and proceed to strategize tomorrow. Pre-positioning involves lowering of the ship’s four anchors as well as gathering and assembling the required equipment for the salvage work.

Isorena explained that after the 68-meter USS Guardian has been stripped of its large parts like its mast and bridge, it would be held in an upright position with mooring lines.

The Smit Borneo would be positioned 10 meters away from the Tubbataha Reef with two of its anchors to be dropped 800 meters down to a sandy bottom and the other two to 300 meters. Its crane has a carrying capacity of 500 tons.

The Guardian ran aground at Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea – a UNESCO heritage site – last Jan. 17 while en route to Indonesia from the former US naval base in Subic Bay where it had refueled and loaded provisions.

It was drained of 15,000 gallons of automotive diesel oil to prevent an oil spill and certain environmental disaster. The ship had damaged more than 4,000 square meters of corals, according to authorities.

To assist in the salvage work are the 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.

Salvage plan OK’d

At Malacañang, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office chief Ricky Carandang said President Aquino approved the US Navy’s salvage plan “with no revisions.”

“We have carefully reviewed the US Navy’s salvage operations plan and we were assured that among their priorities is to have no further damage to the Tubbataha Reef,” Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said after presenting the plan to the Chief Executive.

“We considered several factors and imposed certain conditions before we gave clearance for the US Navy and commercial salvors it has commissioned to undertake the dismantling and vertical removal of the grounded US ship,” he said.

The plan involves cutting the grounded warship to smaller portions to make it easier for salvage teams to extricate it from the coral reefs where it has been stuck since Jan. 17. With Delon Porcalla, Lawrence Agcaoili, Rhodina Villanueva

 

 

AT MALACA CHIEF EXECUTIVE JAN LAWRENCE AGCAOILI MALAYAN TOWAGE AND SALVAGING CORP PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD PRESIDENT AQUINO SALVAGE SMIT BORNEO TUBBATAHA REEF
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