Diesel fuel, harmful material removed from USS Guardian

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Monday, January 28, 2013

MANILA -- Potentially harmful material including 15,000 gallons of diesel fuel has been removed from the USS Guardian, which ran aground on the Tubbataha reef more than a week ago, American authorities said.

The US Navy 7th Fleet said aside from the diesel fuel, 671 gallons of lubricating oil, dry food stores, paints and solvents contained in storage lockers have been "safely transferred."

“We continue to place extra scrutiny on removing everything we can to mitigate possible damage to the marine environment,” Rear Admiral Tom Carney, the on-scene commander of the salvage operation, said on the fleet's website.

In a statement, the US Embassy said the diesel fuel was transferred to the Vos Apollo, a US-contracted Malaysian tugboat, during controlled defueling operations completed on January 25.

No fuel has leaked since the grounding, according to the US Embassy.

It added that two heavy lift ship-borne cranes are expected to arrive on the site on February 1.

Earlier, the Department of Transportation and Communication said the Task Force Tubbataha is finalizing the salvage plan of the USS Guardian, which includes the use of a crane with high lifting capacity for the vertical removal of the stranded ship instead of just dragging it to avoid incurring more damage to the reef.

"Naval architecture experts continue to develop a salvage plan that will involve using the cranes to safely extract the ship while mitigating damage to the reef," the US 7th Fleet said.

On the other hand, the US Embassy assured that the American Navy "is undertaking an extensive investigation to assess the circumstances and facts surrounding the USS Guardian accident."

An inspection team earlier assessed that approximately 1,000 square meters of corals have been severely damaged due to the incident, according to the Philippine Coast Guard.

The USS Guardian, a mine countermeasures ship, ran aground on Tubbataha Reef at 2:25 a.m. on January 17 during a transit to Indonesia, the US Navy said. (Emmanuel Louis Bacani/Sunnex)

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