Navy Ship Runs Aground On Reef In Phillipines
A couple of guys in a panga boat are casting nets just off a reef and while one of them isn’t watching, WHAM, they run off course and ground themselves on a reef. Ok, I guess I can see that having a slight chance of happenning. Now take a 224ft US NAVY Avenger-class mine countermeasure ship with tens of millions of dollars in sophisticated electronics and mine detection gear that is supposed to detect its surroundings and explain to me how they strayed into a United Nations World Heritage Site and ran aground on one of the world’s most pristine reefs. It just seems very improbable. To date all the conversations regarding this incident have been around removing the 15000 gallons of diesel fuel, stabilizing the ship, and most recently how they are going to slowly chop up the 277 million dollar vessel in order to remove it from the reef. All this is important, but little seems to be surfacing about how this happened in the first place.
The Tubbataha Reef is located in the southern Phillipine island chain about 500 miles south of Manilla its capital in the center of the Sulu Sea. The Tubbataha National Marine Part has been designated a United Nations World Heritage Site and is located smack in the middle of the world’s richest and most diverse reef environments. Studies of this site have shown it is home to over 350 species of coral and almost 500 species of fish, including a wide variety of creatures, like whales, dolphins, sharks and turtles. The islands are made up of 2 atolls which are divided by a 5 mile channel. The park was created in 1988 and then expanded in 2006 to cover a total of 239,000 acres currently.
Coveted as the best dive spot in the Phillipines this location is typically reached through a 12hr boat trip from the nearest city of Puerto Princesa. Many divers come here to see the steep drop-offs that the coral atoll provides. By nature, these reefs have formed on the tops of submerged volcanoes, almost like a halo. On their inner edge, they house lagoons and coral flats while on their seaward side, they can drop off thousands of feet deep in only a short distance. This environment creates a unique space where reef life and pelagic live come together.
How Did This NAVY Ship Run Aground?
While the immediate focus has been on making sure the vessel’s diesel was removed and stablizing the 224ft ship, the question of how this happened still seems a bit unclear. The Navy ship was apprarently operating illegally in the park as they did not obtain permission to enter, didn’t pay the fee, and then declined to be boarded, a process which is a mandatory for all vessels entering the park. According to reports, the US Navy declined the boarding telling the park managers to contact the US embasy in Manilla if they had questions. Hopefully we will find out more in the coming days so that an incident like this can be prevented from hapenning in the future.