Workers preparing to cut hull of grounded US warship

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02:58 PM March 19th, 2013

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By: Jerry E. Esplanada, March 19th, 2013 02:58 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—Preparations are underway for the cutting of the hull or outer shell of the USS Guardian, which has been grounded on Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea since January 17, according to a spokesperson of the Philippine Coast Guard.

Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, chief of the Coast Guard’s public affairs office, said the US Navy-contracted salvage team was “making preparations for the operation, mainly the removal of possible interferences,” like loose equipment and debris, during the actual cutting of the hull.

“There are no major activities scheduled for today,” he said in a text message to the INQUIRER on Tuesday.

The salvage team earlier “established strong points in the hull for the rigging of the cable” that will be used in the lifting of that watertight part of the ship, which is right below the vessel’s superstructure, Balilo said.

The PCG headquarters in Manila quoted Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista, Task Force Tubbataha head and commander of the Coast Guard’s Palawan district, as saying he was confident the salvage operation “would be completed as soon as possible.”

He said that with wind speeds of 11 to 16 knots and waves of up to 1.5 meters, the weather has been favorable to continue the salvage operation.

Balilo had said earlier that while the dismantling operation was progressing, the Coast Guard could not discount the possible extension of the March 23 deadline for the removal of the US Navy minesweeper from the reef.

The USS Guardian dismantling operation continued during the weekend with the cutting of the vessel’s engine room and clearing of the lower deck of equipment, loose materials and debris.

Last week, the ship’s four engines, as well as its two diesel generators and fantail cranes, were removed by the lead crane ship Jascon 25 and transferred to the barge Seabridge S-700.

The dismantling operation began on February 22 but was suspended at least four times due to bad weather.

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