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.