U.S. Navy officials say the minesweeper that ran aground on a coral reef in the Philippines last week is too badly damaged to be towed. The USS Guardian has taken on water and is no longer operational; therefore it must be lifted from the reef.
Waves have pushed the Guardian further onto the reef over the past week. So far, no oil or fuel has leaked into the water. About 15,000 gallons of fuel has been removed from the ship.
"As the crane ships arrive, we will take items off the Guardian to lighten the weight of the ship so we are able to remove it from the reef. The option that we had hoped to tow the ship off the reef is not available. The ship is too badly damaged,” Rear Adm. Tom Carney said Thursday.
"It's got hull penetrations in several places, and there is a significant amount of water inside the ship," Carney added. "The ship cannot move on its own, and it is not operational.”
The bow of the 1,312-ton vessel struck the reef last Thursday as it was traveling through the Tubbataha National Marine Park en route to its next port call in Indonesia. The 79 crew members on board were transferred to relief vessels.
Navy officials believe it may take up to 2 weeks to safely remove the Guardian.
The Philippines government plans to request compensation for damage to 10,760 square feet of reef. “It's a damage to a world heritage site. It's a damage to our natural resources. It's a damage to an important site. We cannot but put emphasis on the importance of this reef as a heritage site," said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.
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