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Weeks After Smashing Into Pristine Coral Reef, Efforts to Salvage US Navy Ship Thwarted

USS Guardian remains stuck in Philippine reef as violent seas prevent salvage crane from anchoring

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Heavy waves crash against the USS Guardian (MCM 5) Jan. 29, 2013, on the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea. (Photo: U.S. Navy)Violent sea conditions are further thwarting efforts to salvage a U.S. Navy minesweeper which ran aground on a World Heritage-listed coral reef off the Philippine coast on January 17 and has been stuck there since, damaging at least 4,000 square meters of coral reefs.

The salvage crane Smit Borneo, which arrived from Singapore over a week ago, was thwarted by high winds and waves, Stars and Stripes reported Tuesday.

"Due to the difficulty in anchoring the SMIT Borneo brought about by the unfavorable sea condition, the salvors decided not to continue with the anchoring but instead will wait for the arrival of crane ship Jascon 25," Philippine Coast Guard Palawan district head, Commander Efren Evangelista, said in a text message to reporters, Asia News Network reported on Monday.

The Jascon 25 is expected to arrive on Friday.

Navy spokesman Lt. Frederick Martin told Stars and Stripes that he could not provide a copy of the salvage plan, currently under revision.  The salvage operation is expected to take months.

The U.S. Navy announced at the end of January that the ship would be salvaged by dismantling it into pieces, effectively making the reef an industrial 'operating table,' after finding damage to the Guardian too extensive to be salvaged by lifting the whole ship by crane and taking it away, sparking more environmental concerns.

The Tubbataha National Marine Park, where the USS Guardian is stuck, is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its rich marine life.

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