Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
U.S. Navy to scrap ship stuck on coral reef
BY FLOYD WHALEY, New York Times
MANILA, Philippines -- The U.S. Navy has decided to scrap the $277 million minesweeper stuck on an environmentally sensitive Philippine reef, a spokesman said Thursday, while Philippine officials examined potential legal violations and fines to be levied against the United States.
"The plan is to dismantle the ship into three pieces and remove the sections by crane," said Lt. Cmdr. James Stockman, a Navy public affairs officer temporarily based at the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
The wooden-hulled ship, the 224-foot USS Guardian, struck the Tubbataha Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the southern Philippines, on Jan. 17. According to UNESCO, the reefs are home to more than 350 species of coral and almost 500 types of fish, including a wide variety of creatures, like whales, dolphins, sharks and turtles.
The Navy is investigating the cause of the incident.
Managers of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park have identified at least three legal violations committed by the Navy vessel, according to Grace Barber, an administrator with the park's management office. The vessel's operators did not obtain permission to enter the park, did not pay the fee for entry and obstructed the work of park rangers, said Barber.
The United States is seeking permission from the Philippine coast guard to dismantle the wooden-hulled ship, rather than tow or lift it off the reef, to avoid further damage to the coral in the area, Stockman said. The decision was also a pragmatic one, as the vessel is no longer seaworthy, he added.