USS Guardian salvage operation resumes; ship funnel, mast removed

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04:51 PM February 27th, 2013

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By: Jerry E. Esplanada, February 27th, 2013 04:51 PM

In a photo released by the U.S. Navy, the mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian sits aground in this Jan. 22, 2013 file photo on the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea in the Philippines. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The dismantling of the USS Guardian has resumed with the removal of the US Navy minesweeper’s mast and funnel, according to the spokesperson of the Philippine Coast Guard.

Lt. Commander Armand Balilo Tuesday night said “the removal of the ship’s mast and funnel has been accomplished.”

In a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, he also disclosed that the salvage team had started “clearing equipment below deck, removing the sonar winch at the bow, preparing the mast for lifting, relocating the reference beacons of the crane ship Jascon 25, transferring recovered items  to the tug Archon Tide, and clearing of loose materials” at the US Navy minesweeper.

The weather at Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea has been “generally very good,” Balilo said, noting “the seas are calm while the skies are clear.”

Aside from the Guardian, Jascon 25 and Archon Tide, there were eight other vessels in the vicinity–the US Navy ships Salvor, Safeguard and Wally Schirra; SMIT Borneo crane barge; tugs Intrepid and  Trabajador!; barge S-7000; and the PCG search-and-rescue ship BRP Pampanga.

The USS Guardian ran aground at the reef, a United Nations World Heritage Site, on Jan. 17 while on its way from Subic to its next port call.

The BRP Pampanga is tasked with monitoring the salvage operation being undertaken by private contractors hired by the US Navy, according to Balilo.

Last weekend, the salvage master, whom the PCG did not identify, “conducted a briefing for all concerned aboard Jascon 25.”

“They discussed the work plan, as well as ways to ensure the safety of the salvage team and the prevention of further damage to the reef,” which has reportedly reached over 1,500 square meters, Balilo added.

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