USS Guardian salvage to cost almost $25-M

(UPDATED) The salvage operation will not be completed until December, the US Department of Defense says

WAITING TO BE DISMANTLED. The mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian seen on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 on the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea, where it ran aground on January 17. AFP PHOTO / US NAVY

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The private salvage company hired by the US Navy to remove the USS Guardian from Tubbataha Reef Natural Park will be paid almost $25 million (about P1.2-B) to complete its task, according to the US Department of Defense.

“SMIT Salvage, Singapore, was awarded on Feb. 1, 2013, a $24,889,904 delivery order against previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00024-12-D-4120) to provide support for emergency response and recovery operations for the USS Guardian grounding on Tubbataha Reef, Sulu Sea, Philippines,” the DOD published as an official notice on Wednesday, February 6. (Check out the contract here)

Support provided by SMIT “will include personnel, vessels and equipment required for assessment, planning, stabilization, oil removal and vessel recovery.”

The notice added that the salvage operation is expected to be completed by December, not April or early May as earlier announced by the Philippine Coast Guard.

COSTLY SALVAGE. The US Department of Defense published the contract details on its own website, as mandated by US law when private contractors as involved. Screenshot from DOD website

Experienced private contractor

SMIT Singapore is the Asian branch of SMIT, one of the world’s leading salvage company based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

The firm provides emergency response, wreck removal and environmental care services around the world and has additional global offices in Houston, Texas and Cape Town, South Africa.

SMIT has been hired to work on a number of high-profile maritime accidents, such as the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia, which crashed off the island of Giglio with over 4,000 passengers on board in January 2012.

The Philippine Coast Guard on Wednesday finally gave the green light to to the US Navy plan of cutting the USS Guardian into pieces and then lifting each section onto a barge with floating cranes to minimize further damage to the reef at the UNESCO World Heritage site in the Sulu Sea.

DIVING PARADISE. Tubbataha is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993 and considered a paradise for scuba diving. From from the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park official website

US should pay fines if they can afford $25-M – WWF

Asked about the cost of the salvaging, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Philippines spokesman Gregg Yan said that the fines that the US Navy will have to pay for the crash are “just a drop in the bucket for [their] coffers” if they can afford $25-M to remove the ship.

“By law, the US Navy should pay a fine of at least $600 per sqm of damaged reef. At 4,000 sqm, that amounts to at least $2.4-M for one offense, [but the] USS Guardian incurred at least five violations,” he told Rappler.

Yan called on the United States government “to spend for rehabilitation and life [rather than] warfare.”

WWF-Philippines last week recalled how the US Navy paid US$15-M (about P610-M based on the current exchange rate) to the State of Hawaii when one of its ships ran aground on a reef and destoyed 890 sqm of coral in early 2009.

A spokesman for the US Navy had not replied to a request for comment as of posting time.

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