While we often criticize our government on this blog, it is important to remember that there remains great differences between this government and those around the world in areas like the environment. In an extraordinary decision, the United States Navy has decided to disassemble the $277 million USS Guardian, an important minesweeper, rather than further damage a coral reef by pulling it off the reef. This follows an equally impressive approach to drilling in the Antarctic by U.S. explorers.
USS Guardian (MCM-5) is a U.S. Navy Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship commissioned on December 16, 1989.
The minesweeper will be cut into small pieces and removed to avoid further harm to the ecosystem after it ran aground. It appears that the digital navigational chart in use by the Guardian had the wrong location of the reef by about eight nautical miles.
While conservatives have portrayed this as an example of environmentalists gone wild in the Administration, reports indicated that the ship was likely beyond repair due to damage to the hull. However, many argued for the ship to be ripped from the reef so that possible repairs could be made.
However, there was clearly a great deal of consideration given to the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea and the damage that would increase from pulling the ship free. There should be little doubt as to how Russia or China would respond to such a circumstance.
An example of the different approach to the environment is evident in recent drilling operations in the Antarctic by the U.S. and Russia. Despite scientific objections to the contamination of a deep lake, the Russians pumped in more than 14,000 gallons of kerosene and Freon into the over 2 mile drilling hole to keep its drill from freezing. They insist pressure will force out the pollutants when they break through — a view rejected as reckless by scientists. In comparison, the U.S. drilling operation into a deep lake involves feeding the drilling hose through a collar of ultraviolet lamps to kill 99.9 percent of all microorganisms.
The willingness to spend such money to protect environmentally sensitive areas should legitimately be a source of pride for Americans.
23 thoughts on “Green Navy: U.S. To Cut Up $277 Million Minesweeper Rather Than Further Damage Reef”
Update: The command crew has been fired:
(gCaptain is an interesting blawg, they did excellent coverage/analysis of the Coast Guard hearings of the Bounty sinking.)
Dear Pete9999 — Re: the CPt’s career — normally you would be correct. I am not sure what time of day that the ship hit the reef but you DID read where the charts were off by 8 miles — that is a significant error on a chart.
If they hit at night — I am Army not Navy — but they would have had only the OOD as well as a small contingent — say 3 tpo five people on that Bridge — that reef probably came up on them a lot faster than they realized esp. if they were steaming at anywhere’s near full speed. Eight miles off on the charts and you immediately want to blame the CPT … OK
If there really is no other solution, than they really have no other choice, since this reef by all accounts is an ecological treasure and also an important tourist destination that sustains the area economically. I can not help wonder, however if instead perhaps helium balloons, helicopters or floats could be used to lift the ship up. The government should be commended for trying to minimze the impact but I worry about breaking up the ship, that that may also release pollutants. I wonder if perhaps it might make more sense to leave it there, removing everything possible to reduce its weight, then wait for the next big tide or storm with its storm surge, to allow the ship to be moved off the reef when the water level rises. Better to take a little time with this and do it right, also saving 277 million dollars of taxpayer money. Whatever they do, they should work with the local community and try to get their buy-in.
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