The U.S. Navy will cut up and remove a U.S. navy minesweeper that ran into a coral reef two weeks ago because removing the vessel would cause too much damage to the reef and the ship’s hull, a military spokesman said.
The USS Guardian hit the Tubbataha Reef, UNESCO World Heritage site and a Philippine national park, on Jan. 17. Navy crews removed “harmful material” and fuel from the vessel to prevent environmental damage, according to Navy news releases.
Navy spokesman Lt. Anthony Falvo told CNN that military experts are trying to figure out the best way to cut up the, 1,312-ton vessel before removing it.
“We will strip it out beforehand. We’ll work to salvage any parts that can be salvaged,” Falvo told the network.
The Navy is also hiring floating cranes to help with the dismantling process, U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Darryn James told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The cranes will lift the pieces of the Guardian onto other ships before taking them away. The Navy estimates that it will take more than a month to dismantle the ship.
The Guardian’s crew of 79 was sent off to other vessels after it was determined that the ship could not leave the reef on its own.
“The ship cannot move on its own, and it is not operational,” Rear Adm. Tom Carney told CNN last week.
James said that removing the ship is mainly to protect the environment. “We really do care about being good stewards of the environment,” he told AP.
“We’re working very closely with the Philippine coast guard, with their navy and their government personnel. We’ve been grateful for their support as we all work together to remove Guardian and minimize further damage to the reef,” James continued.
Angelique Songco, the head of the Tubbataha marine park, told AFP that dismantling the ship would damage the reef even more, but said that leaving it there longer would cause even more problems.
“It will cause more damage the longer it is left there,” she told the news agency
Jose Maria Lorenzo Tan, the head of the Word Wildlife Fund office in the Philippines, agreed with Songco’s assessment.
“If this is the only option, then the sooner they can remove it, the better. They cannot risk that the ship simply break apart,” Tan said.
Before it crashed into the reed, the ship was en route to Indonesia after it stopped in Subic Bay, a former U.S. naval base near Manila.
Launched in 1997, the Guardian vessel cost around $61 million, according to CNN, and is one of 14 Avenger class minesweepers used by the Navy.
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