MANILA, Philippines—The removal of thousands of liters of fuel from the US Navy minesweeper that ran aground on Tubbataha Reef was expected to be completed Friday, according to the Philippine Coast Guard.
As of 1 p.m. Friday, the defueling of the USS Guardian was already 70 percent complete, a Coast Guard spokesman said.
The PCG and the Philippine Navy were assisting the US Navy in removing the fuel from the minesweeper.
The USS Guardian was reportedly carrying 15,000 liters of fuel, which was transferred to the Malaysian ship Vos Apollo.
“We’re continuing with the operation today, taking out fuel from the ship to prevent serious marine damage,” said PCG spokesman Cmdr. Armand Balilo as he allayed fears of an oil spill.
He added that the defueling process was initially delayed because of strong winds and rough seas.
“But since Thursday, the weather has been good, enabling us to proceed with the removal of the fuel,” Balilo said, adding that one US salvage ship arrived at the site at around 7 a.m. Friday.
He said that representatives from various agencies such as the PCG, the Philippine Navy’s Western Command, Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board, and the World Wildlife Fund also made an aerial inspection in the area Friday morning.
Two crane ships from Singapore, which will lift the Guardian, are expected to arrive at the site by Jan. 30.
“What we are doing is mostly in preparation for the salvaging operations that would start once the vessels with cranes arrive in Tubbataha Reef,” he added.