Bad weather delays Tubbataha operation
MANILA, Philippines - Unfavorable weather delayed for the 2nd consecutive day the start of the USS Guardian salvaging operation in Tubbataha Reef Natural Park, officials said on Monday, February 18.
Although the operation was expected to begin at 6 am, the rough seas and strong wind did not allow the Jascon 25 crane ship to approach the American minesweeper stuck on the reef.
"The weather is not good," Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesman Cdr Armand Balilo told Rappler.
After the Jascon 25 crane ship arrived late on Saturday, preliminary salvage operations were set to begin if the weather permitted, according to the US Navy.
The Gibraltar-flagged Jascon 25 will be the lead crane ship in the salvage operation, after the SMIT Borneo was unable to successfully anchor in deep water, to prevent further damage to the reef.
Authorities on site said they are now trying to tow both crane ships closer together with one of the two tugboats on site to facilitate transfer of personnel and salvage equipment.
Under the original salvage plan, the cranes were to lift the whole USS Guardian from the reef, but the Americans later changed their mind and decided to dismantle the minesweeper into sections and transfer these to a barge with the cranes, without moving the vessel to minimize damage to the coral.
The Jascon 25 and the SMIT Borneo belong to different companies but both are part of the same $25 million contract signed by the US Department of Defense for private salvaging firms to remove the USS Guardian from the reef
The minesweeper ran aground exactly one month ago inside the protected area of the marine park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the world's top scuba diving destinations. - with reports from Carlos Santamaria/Rappler.com