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‘Tubbataha’ to cut US ship in 4 sections

On the final stage of dismantling a US ship that ran aground on Tabbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea, salvor ships and crew will cut the hull in four sections this week and bore holes for steel cables of giant cranes that will lift them out of the water, Coast Guard officials said on Monday. Task Force Tubbataha Chief Enrico Efren Evangelista said the hull, which is four layers of wood with the outer portion made of oak, will be cut in four sections in six straight days of good weather conditions. “Once the hull is completely cut, it will be lifted immediately,” Evangelista said. The USS Guardian, a 68-meter long minesweeper, ran aground on January 17 on Tubbataha Reef, a marine sanctuary, while transiting the Sulu Sea. Marine biologists estimated about 4,000 square meters of corals were destroyed. The US apologized and blamed a faulty map for the mishap but park rangers said the captain and crew ignored warnings to avoid the area. The US Navy chose to dismantle the ship to avoid more damage to the reef. Coast Guard Chief Information Officer Armand Balilo said the salvor ships and crew will work through the Lenten holiday to speed up removal of the USS Guardian in the area. He said the crane ship Jascon 25 has taken out the funnel, engine, mast, sonar, communication equipment and bridge and was looking forward at removing the watertight bow sections, auxillary and main machine rooms, and stern. Balilo said the Coast Guard will formally conduct an investigation into the incident after the salvage operation has been finished in the next few weeks in good weather conditions. The US government has offered compensation for the damages on the reef and proposed a rehabilitation of the area after the USS Guardian has been removed from the area. The salvor ships involved in the salvage operation are the Jascon-25, SMIT Borneo crane barge, USNS Salvor, USNS Safeguard, USNS Wally Schirra, M/Tug Archon Tide,  M/Tug Intrepid, M/Tug Trabajador-1, and Barge S-7000 of the Malayan Towage and Coast Guard vessel BRP-Romblon.
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