This month a 250-ton bow of a U.S warship, the USS Guardian, was removed from the Tubbataha Reef. The warship has been grounded on the reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Philippines, since January 17th. While the exact cause of the grounding is being investigated, it is believed to have been caused by a map error that misplaced the reef’s location.
The Removal Process
Removing an entire U.S. warship from an environmentally protected reef is no small feat. To make the removal process manageable, the ship is being cut into four sections and will be removed one section at a time. Even this doesn’t fully solve the logistical problems because each of the four segments is estimated to weigh 250 tons. In order to divide the ship into the four segments, U.S Navy divers and contractors must first meticulously remove debris and clear a work path inside the ship. Once a path is cleared, chainsaws, reciprocating saws, and hydraulic tools are used to manually cut the hull. Eventually each piece will be cut and lifted onto a nearby ship by a large crane.
Progress and Aftermath
The removal seems to be going according schedule. With the help of Navy and contract divers both the bow and engine room of the ship have already been successfully removed. The entire vessel is scheduled to be removed by mid-April.
Unfortunately, the damage may have already been done. According to CNN, the Tubbataha Reef, “ is home to about 500 species of fish, 350 species of coral as well as whales, dolphins, sharks, turtles and breeding seabirds… The Guardian is estimated to have damaged about 4,000 square meters (about 43,000 square feet) of the reef.” In response, the U.S. navy has pledged to investigate and mitigate the damage as much as possible and plans to “provide appropriate compensation for damage to the reef caused by the ship.”
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