Tubbataha salvaging delayed at least a week
PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines - The salvage operation for the US ship stuck in Tubbataha Reef Natural Park has been delayed due to rough seas, and will not start until a 2nd floating crane arrives next week, an official said on Sunday, February 10.
The unfavorable sea conditions have not allowed the 1st crane ship SMIT Borneo to anchor away from the reef as stipulated in the approved salvage plan, explained Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Palawan Cmdr Efren Evangelista.
For the past 5 days the SMIT Borneo has been looking for a spot to drop its own anchor in about 800 m deep water to minimize further damage to the coral.
Evangelista told Rappler that the operation will begin only after a 2nd floating crane, the Gibraltar-flagged Jascon 25, arrives on February 15 or 16.
"There will be no cutting of the USS Guardian until the arrival of [the] Jascon 25," he stressed.
Meanwhile, PCG and US Navy personnel will continue to clear the ship of any objects that can be removed without a crane and conduct daily joint damage assessment patrols, Evangelista said.
The USS Guardian ran aground on January 17 inside the protected area of the marine park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the world's top scuba diving destinations.
Washington has agreed to pay almost $25 million for a private contractor to dismantle the ship into sections and transfer these to a barge with the crane, without moving the vessel from the reef. - with reports from Carlos Santamaria/Rappler.com