The minesweeper USS GUARDIAN (MCM 5) remains hard aground on Tubbataha Reef in the western Philippines, but as of Thursday morning, Jan. 24, according to the U. S. Navy, the ship shows no signs of further damage and there is no evidence of any fuel leak.
The Japan-based U.S. Seventh Fleet, to which the GUARDIAN is assigned, released several images of the wreck scene taken Jan. 22 and 23. They show the ship remains relatively intact, showing little topside disruption after several days of being pounded by waves and wind. The ship’s composite-construction hull has certainly suffered, however, from rolling on the reef since she struck in the early hours of Jan. 17.
Rear Adm. Thomas Carney, in charge of the salvage operation, was reported Jan. 24 by Agence France Presse as saying the salvage operation could take at least another two weeks, depending on weather conditions.
“The option that we hoped, to be able to tow the ship off the reef, is not available,” Carney said. “It’s too badly damaged. It’s got hull penetrations in several places, and there’s a significant amount of water inside the ship right now.”
The images show damage assessment teams working on the GUARDIAN. They’re looking at the ship’s condition inside and out and trying to determine the best way to get her off the coral reef.
An investigation into the incident remains ongoing, but Navy officials f0und the digital chart being used by the GUARDIAN at the time of the grounding incorrectly located the reef about eight nautical miles from its true position. The chart has since been corrected.
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