A United States owned Navy minesweeper ship runs aground on a coral reef in the Philippines, with no injuries to report and the crew is trying to determine if the vessel caused any damage to a marine park located in a protected area.
The Navy released a statement that the of the USS Guardian was working to find out the best method of safely extracting the ship.
It had just completed a port call in Subic Bay, a former American naval base west of the Philippine capital, when it hit the reef in the Tubbataha National Marine Park, a World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea, 400 miles southeast of Manila.
The ship was not listing or leaking oil but about 15 percent of the bow appeared to have struck the reef, said Angelique Songco, head of the government’s Protected Area Management Board, after flying over the ship in a Philippine Air Force plane. “It does not appear to be damaged.”
She said it was unclear how much of the reef was damaged. She said the government imposes a fine of about $300 dollars per square meter (yard) of corals that are damaged.
In 2005, the environmental group Greenpeace was fined almost $7,000 after its flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, struck a reef in the same area.
Songco said that park rangers were not allowed to board the ship for inspection and were told to contact the U.S. Embassy in Manila. Their radio calls to the ship were ignored, she said.
She said the ship may be able to float free during a high tide later Thursday.
U.S. Navy ships have stepped up visits to Philippine ports for refueling, rest and recreation, and joint military exercises as a result of a redeployment of U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region. The Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally, has been entangled in a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.
The USS Guardian, commissioned in 1989, is an Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship and is the second U.S. Navy ship of that name. It is commanded by Lieutenant Commander Mark A. Rice, and is part of Mine Countermeasures Squadron 7.