MANILA, Philippines – The USS Guardian dismantling operation continued during the weekend in preparation for the cutting of the US Navy minesweeper’s engine room, according to the spokesperson of the Philippine Coast Guard.
Lieutenant Commander Armand Balilo, also chief of the PCG’s public affairs office, on Sunday said the US Navy-contracted salvage team was “in the process of clearing the USS Guardian’s engine room and the lower deck of equipment, loose materials and debris.”
In a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, he also disclosed that “good weather in the Tubbataha Reef (in the Sulu Sea) has allowed the salvage operation to progress.”
“Wind speeds of 10 to 15 knots and waves of 0.6 to 1 meter are prevailing in the reef area,” noted Balilo.
The salvage team “has dismantled over 50 percent of the USS Guardian,” said the Coast Guard’s Palawan district in a report to the PCG headquarters in Manila.
The Coast Guard search-and-rescue vessel BRP Romblon (SARV 3503) is closely monitoring the salvage operation, led by the main crane ship Jascon 25, according to Balilo.
Seven other ships were in the vicinity: the US Navy supply ship Wally Schirra, USS Salvor, crane ship SMIT Borneo, barge Seabridge S-700, tugs Archon Tide and Intrepid, and the Malayan tow vessel Trabajador 1.
Last week, the USS Guardian’s four engines, as well as its two diesel generators and fantail cranes, were successfully removed and transferred to the Seabridge by the Jascon 25.
The salvage team is expecting favorable weather conditions in the reef area in the next three to four days that would allow it to continue work on the 68-meter US Navy vessel, which ran aground on the reef on January 17.
The ship dismantling operation began on February 22 but was suspended at least four times due to bad weather.