The USS Guardian in the midst of salvage operations, via the US Navy
Reefs around the world are in rough shape, and those in the Asian tropics aren't immune. But while China's economic boom has caused 80 percent of its reefs to die, the Philippines is currently dealing with a more pointed problem. In January, the USS Guardian, an American minesweeping ship, ran aground on the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea, and the Philippines will now ask for $1.4 million in compensation for damaging a few thousand square meters of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
The ship ran aground on January 17th, and it wasn't until March 29 that salvage teams finally were able to remove the 223-foot ship after sectioning it on the reef. CNN has photos of the salvage process, which go to highlight just how difficult such a process is. But I believe the Navy photo below, more than any other, highlights just how clownish the accident is:
It's unclear exactly how the USS Guardian ended up on the reef, but if I was to hazard a guess, I'd say it miscalculated its course as it tried to skirt the reef, although it's also unclear why the ship would be cruising so close to the reef in the first place. According to the AFP, the Navy has since relieved the commanding officer and three of the Guardian's crew of their duties following the accident.
It was initially thought that the ship may have damaged up to 4,000 square meters of the reef, but recent assessments by the reef's managers put the damage at 2,345 square meters. According to Angelique Songco, the superintendent of the Tubbataha marine park, said the $1.4 million to be requested is the amount prescribed by the laws protecting the reef. That number has apparently been a source of consternation in the Philippines, who think the US should pay more for crashing a ship into a protected site home to hundreds of fish, coral, and bird species, among others.
Songco said a letter requesting the compensation would be sent to the US embassy shortly, while the Navy, which still has a team of divers on site to assess reef damage, said it welcomes any and all documentation that the Philippines feel is pertinent to the request. In other words, the Navy wants a bill so that it can apologize again, pay the fine, and move on.