U.S. ship smashes into Philippines reef as the Navy plans to scrap another ship damaged in a similar accident in Hawaiʻi


A photo released on Jan. 20, 2013 by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (AFP-WESCOM) shows the US Navy ship USS Guardian remaining stuck in the vicinity of the Tubbataha Reef, western Philippines, on Jan. 19.

Common Dreams reported (“US Navy Ship Ignored Warning Before Ramming Pristine Coral Reef”, January 21, 2013) that the USS Guardian ignored warnings by Philippines officials before it smashed into the world heritage coral reef:

The US Navy minesweeper that smashed into the World Heritage-listed coral reef off the Philippines coast last week ignored warnings to avoid the area, according to a Philippine government official.

The comments from the superintendent of Tubbataha Marine Park, Angelique Songco, added to growing anger in the Philippines over the incident, for which the US Navy may face fines.

According to The Navy Times, the 79 US Navy personnel aboard abandoned ship and the minesweeper is taking on water, “multiple spaces” are flooded.

Park rangers radioed the USS Guardian to advise it was nearing the Tubbataha Reef on Thursday, but the ship captain radioed back telling park rangers to bring their complaint to the US embassy, Ms Songco told reporters on Monday.

Songco blamed the USS Guardian for turning away park rangers who were about to follow protocol by boarding the ship to check if it had the proper permits, but saw the minesweeper’s crewmembers were in “battle position.”

Philippines activists are up in arms about this violation of Philippines environmental law and sovereignty.  The government decided to fine the U.S. (“US fined, but Tubbataha execs bristling: ‘Ship was warned. They told rangers to talk to US embassy'”, January 22, 2013):

The site is protected by Philippine law, and is off-limits to navigation except for research or tourism approved by the marine park superintendent. The law prescribes a maximum penalty of up to a year in prison plus a fine of up to 300,000 pesos (about $7,300) for unauthorized entry, but Tan said the penalty agreed by the board does not include the jail option.

“We initially decided to fine them,” said Tan, also the country president of the World Wildlife Fund. He declined to disclose the amount.

A board statement issued by Tan said the US Navy would also be fined for “non-payment of conservation fee” and “obstruction of law enforcement officer”.

$7300?  For “non-payment of conservation fee” and “obstruction of law enforcement officer”?   Tubbataha Reef is a casualty of Obama’s “Pacific pivot”.

The Navy wants to scrap the USS Port Royal, its newest and most technologically advanced missile cruiser. “Congress queries Navy over retiring isle-based Port Royal” (January 10, 2013):

The Navy wants to retire the Pearl Harbor-based USS Port Royal, the youngest Ticonderoga-class cruiser in the fleet and a ship with prized ballistic missile defense capability.

Congress wants to know why, and it wants to know in 180 days.

The USS Port Royal smashed into and damaged the reef off of the south shore of Oʻahu in 2009.  In the collision it sustained major structural damage.

“Although the Navy indicates that the ship never completely recovered from the grounding, the Navy has not provided adequate analysis and cost data on the structural condition of the ship,” the defense bill’s conference report states.

[. . .]

The Navy spent more than $20 million in 2010 and 2011 to address cracks in the Port Royal’s aluminum alloy superstructure, a problem endemic to all 22 Ticonderoga-class cruisers.

That was on top of $40 million in fixes required by the 2009 grounding, and an $18 million refurbishment just before the warship ran aground.

The severity of the damage may be news to Congress, but shipyard workers told us months ago that the damage to the USS Port Royal was so severe that the ship would have to be scrapped.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *