Minesweeper Guardian Wrecked On Philippine Reef
By James Donahue
When launched in 1987 the USS Guardian, an Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship was destined to
be the first mine warfare vessel in the Seventh Fleet to be modified for a mixed-gender crew. That simply meant that the male
and female crew members enjoyed separate shower and bathrooms, something almost unheard of in older naval vessels.
The Guardian, a 224-foot-long ship, was equipped with the most modern technology placed on a fighting
ship. It included a mine neutralization system, magnetic/acoustic influence minesweeping gear, mechanical sweep equipment,
Marconi magnetometer degaussing system, a precise integrated navigation system, mine-hunting sonar, mine-hunting sonar, surface
radar and gyro compass.
Despite all of this fine technology that should have prevented the accident that claimed this ship
in February, 2013, the Guardian ran hard aground on Tubbataha Reef, off the Philippine Islands. The ship was cruising through
restricted waters within Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, and ignored a radio warning prior to the grounding.
At first only the bow section of Guardian rested on the reef. But before tugs and other naval ships
could arrive at the scene and attempt to pull it free, wave action drove the entire ship about 100 feet into the reef and
the sharp coral sliced various holes in the ship’s hull. Thus it was that the Guardian was declared a total loss.
Salvage ships removed 15,000 gallons of diesel fuel. Dry food stores and other items of value were
removed from the doomed vessel. Then the ship was carefully cut into three parts and lifted by crane to awaiting barges before
being hauled off for scrap. The final section was removed on March 30, 2013.
In the meantime, Philippine officials are determining whether fines will be levied against the U.S.
Navy and the Philippine Senate has called for an investigation. Admiral Cecil D. Haney met with the crew of the Guardian to
find out how such an accident could have happened.
We suspect some heads will roll.