Tuesday, January 29, 2013

1/29/2012  USS GUARDIAN


Salvage Team removes fuel from grounded USS Guardian
Salvage vessels working near the site of the grounding of the USS GUARDIAN , Photo by AC3  Geoffery Trudell, USN

The USS GUARDIAN has had its fuel removed and most of the hazardous materials are off the ship. Salt water in about the same quantity as the removed fuel has been pumped into the fuel tanks to help stabilize the ship. The Navy reports that the ship is in no immediate danger of sinking. However little more can be done until the rest of the salvage fleet arrives. According to Navy spokesmen there are still two more ships that have to arrive from the United States. These are expected "in early February". We again wonder just how long this weather window will hold?

Opinion: This is a small mine counter measures ship. We believe that the cost of her salvage at his point if measured against her fair market value would amount to a "constructive total loss" in maritime insurance terms. However even with the fuel and hazardous materials removed this hull can not be abandoned due to the place where she went aground. She is fast aground in a Philippine marine sanctuary and even if in squeaky clean condition she can not be allowed to sink due to the mechanical damage she can inflict on the coral. We are short on mine sweeping capacity in the U.S.fleet. We could have probably built several such ships for what this event is going to cost us in the end. There is no one single cause of this accident. From the investigation so far we know there was an eight mile error in the charted position of the reef. However one event stands out. According to one source a Philippine natural resources service radio operator contacted the ship to tell them they were in a "prohibited zone". In the account of the radio exchange that we are aware of the U.S. ship curtly replied that if the contact had problems with their position they needed to contact the U.S. embassy in Manila. It wasn't long after this exchange that the USS GUARDIAN went aground.

 Now considering that the Philippines are an ally, competent seafarers, and not known to be overbearing and officious why was the GUARDIAN's reply so curt? A conversational response would have revealed that they were standing into real navigational danger as well as violating Philippine law. Apparently the GUARDIAN answered out of arrogance, and paid the price. The event will of course cost one or more young officers their career, but it also doesn't help American Philippine relations. The Philippine nation and people, our WW II veterans would remind you, deserve our deepest respect, they sacrificed much to aid the Allied cause. They have continued as allies ever since and many of their number have served in our navy. Many of these veterans became citizens and retired in the U.S. but have numerous family ties to the Philippines. In short, the people of the Philippines aren't just allies we share history and blood. How did this disrespectful attitude creep into our Pacific Fleet, or was it just one officer on one ship?  The Navy needs to find that out as the investigation of this incident continues. We caution against any rush to judgement, but this is an aspect of the investigation we view as important.  We don't claim to have the facts, but based on the "information" that is out there we'd certainly like to hear the facts from an authoritative source.

Below is a link to the latest commercial news account available at the time of this posting:

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