USS Guardian lies crippled on UNESCO World Heritage Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines

USS Guardian lies crippled on UNESCO World Heritage Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines

WASHINGTON: The January grounding of the minesweeper USS Guardian in a Philippine coral reef was caused in large part by a National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) map that was, quite simply, wrong by eight nautical miles, Breaking Defense has learned.

“It really was just a terrible fluke that caused the error,” NGA spokeswoman Christine Phillips said in a frank discussion of the incident and its aftermath.

The Sulu Sea grounding prompted NGA to order an agency-wide review of the nautical charts detailing the entire surface of the earth covered by the oceans. Also, NGA and the Navy have convened a team of maritime experts to take “an exhaustive look to make sure we are as sound as we can be,” Phillips told me.

Comments

  • CharleyA

    What is still unclear is whether the ship’s Captain, Exec, and/or navigator knew the chart that the chart they were using was inaccurate, and if had they included the other two available charts, how would that have known which one(s) were correct?

    • Lou50

      I would bet all of them were not having a slow day and said lets run aground and get some attention to the differences in these charts.

      • machattan

        had that been the case, it might have been a service.

    • TransformerSWO

      Probably not – but seeing 2 or 3 charts in conflict would tell any CO and Navigator to stay away from the questionable area. They apparently depended on only one chart, which is never a good idea.

      • CharleyA

        Kinda scary having chart discrepancies. Being an aviator, I rely on charting data programmed into nav devices, and (recently) to a lessor extent, paper charts. While I have never seen an anomaly between the sources, the possibility of errors creeping into any pub, chart or transcribed data exists, however remote. Anyway, the onus is upon the airman/navigator to avail themselves of all pertinent data – which basically serves as a “out” for upper authority, and dooms the unfortunate.

    • TL Dragon

      It’s not unclear. The Officers here are negligent. You should always check and double check charts.

      Irrelevant anyway, the ship was not authorized to be in that area.

  • ELECTRODE

    Ahoy there, “sounding by the mark, one fathom! all back full! Bang Ding Ow”.

  • Don Bacon

    And now, the rest of the story.

    tubbatahareef.org

    Tubbataha Demands Justice for the Reefs
    Posted on January 19, 2013 by TMO

    The Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) is seeking an explanation from the United States authorities for the grounding of the USS Guardian (MCM 5), a 224ft minesweeper, on the South Atoll of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) at 2 a.m. on January 17, 2013.

    The USS Guardian did not have a permit to enter TRNP, which is a marine protected area. According to a statement from US 7th Fleet Public Affairs, the USS Guardian had completed a routine fuel stop in Subic Bay and was on the way to Puerto Princesa, for a short visit.

    The US Naval vessel did not inform marine park rangers of its presence and situation and was later discovered only through radar at 4:00 a.m.

    Marine park rangers radioed the USS Guardian, introducing themselves as law enforcers. They informed them of their violations and announced their intention to board the vessel. However, upon approaching, they saw soldiers taking position with their weapons and, since radio contact was unanswered, the boarding protocol was aborted.

    “The ship’s commander ordered a general alert and deployed personnel into battle position when our rangers tried to approach their ship to assess the situation, forcing them to back off,” said Protected Area Superintendent Angelique Songco.

    The TMO is planning to lodge a formal protest with the US government. The act of preventing the marine park rangers from fulfilling their duty to board vessels which illegally enter the park demonstrated lack of good faith and disrespect for Philippine authority and its agents.

  • machattan

    agencies really ought to hire copy readers. the headline identifies the ship as the Guardian Reef.

    • TransformerSWO

      No, it’s read as a reef grounding by USS Guardian, not “Guardian Reef” grounding. Could have been written more clearly, but it’s not wrong.

      • machattan

        your opening sentence is what ought to have been said. instead, it said this ship called the Guardian Reef grounded.
        just clarifying; not quoting.

  • agb1953 .

    Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip, that ended on this tropic reef and cost this Navy ship.

    • beelp

      Why mate, that’s quite the rhyme. Avast.

      • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

        If MaryAnn or Ginger was on it they would have ran it up through New York to the Stock Exchange. Maybe even Misses Howell, Mom thing you know. Well anyway Stock Exchange be happy now, they are building a new boat.

        • beelp

          Do you know that or are you making an assumption? I was on a wood hulled ship. It leaked a lot. The pumps ran 24/7 while on WestPac.

          • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

            No I’m assuming. Never been around a large ship, barges on the Ky river as a kid I think was the biggest. My dad said in WW2 they built the Liberty ships so fast that once on the water they had to run all through the ships welding and riveting to keep them from falling apart. He was sent to Germany and the Pacific. Think in some fighting in the pacific. He told my cousins that, never told me of any fighting. He was in Nuermenmberg and Hiroshima. Later in the Korean war, still not sure on that fighting.

    • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

      They can christen a new one after a trillion dollars. Maybe they can name it Savannah. Know they had a cruiser I believe in WW2 called that.

  • Fred H. Smith

    TYPICAL…even our tom toms in our autos are so far out of date they cant be accurate/]…even mapquest and google maps are 2 to 4 years behind…2 years age we were in Springfield , Ohio looking fo a certain motel….our Garmin Nuvi showed the area to be a BIG field. no streets etc.,would nor recognise the phone number either.. The motel and surrounding area had been there long enough that it was time for a major face lift

  • cullinscarp2k

    So they had to scrap this ship? They couldn’t have drug it off the reef into one of those dry dock ships? Why didn’t this reef show up on radar/sonar? Even my 21 footer has a depth alarm on it. Sounds like there was some sleeping going on.

    • TransformerSWO

      Look at the aerial pictures again – that’s DEEP water right next to that reef. Won’t show up on radar because it’s underwater, and sonar isn’t useful for detecting things like this. They didn’t drag it off because that would have caused more damage to the reef – the way to minimize reef damage was to cut it off and take it off in pieces.

      • cullinscarp2k

        I realized that the water is deep around it. I just “thought” the reef was shallow enough to be picked up electronically. I do know that the reef would grow back eventually. I can’t believe that further damage wouldn’t be done by chopping up the ship. Now we have to buy another ship.

        • TL Dragon

          Ignorance is bliss. You must be one deliriously happy dude.

          The larger corals grow less than an inch per year in pristine and perfect conditions.

          • cullinscarp2k

            Man, “F” U. Now we start with the name calling. You had rather spend millions replacing a ship than let coral grow back. A hurricane will do more damage to that coral then that ship would. Did I mention F U?

          • beelp

            I’m with you cullin. Always a was guy, snarky liberal environmentalist in the crowd. Oh wait, they hate crowds, and people in general. Except themselves. You know, “self love” and all that crap.

          • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

            C’mon guys were all in this together. So buying another ship sends up down the tubes faster, less sorrow, pity and madness on the journey. This in the light of day could be a good thing.

          • cullinscarp2k

            Well beelp, let’s just say that I go to Cozumel once a year and go diving. I have seen the damage that a hurricane had done to the coral reef near the hotel we stay at. I have also seen how much it has come back. Now I also know that does not make me the marine biologist that TL Dragon is, but I would “think” that works cutting apart a ship on top of a reef would do more damage to the reef than dragging it back off into deeper water. I’m just sayin’

          • 10579

            do you go to cozumel via a love boat or air. if you go by air you are probably a tree huger.But by sea you are probably a misplaced swabby. P.S. I’m for the ship the coral will heal itself.We don.t have millions to waste on trashing a ship and spending millions to build another.

          • cullinscarp2k

            Why do I have to “BE” either one? My wife and I fly to Cozumel because we want to get there as fast as we can and get on with our vacation. It’s a 2 hour and 45 minute fight from Houston IAH. First thing we do is get a rental car, get to the hotel asap so that we can get signed up for 3 days of diving. If you want to go by sea and be pack in like sardines with 6000 of your favorite people who are there just to eat, drink, and be merry then be my guest.

          • 10579

            well i guess you like being in a nice silver tube like tooth past or sardines,either way enjoy cozemel.But you should try cruising it is relaxing and you get to meet other people on the ship and travel to many more places than cozemel,which i now find boring. been there so many times that it’s as boring as a flight on a plane,as you don’t get to talk and know anyone on you mini trip.have fun i sure you think you deserve it.

          • cullinscarp2k

            Seriously 10579, have you seen the news on cruise ships? We just don’t care to spend hours waiting in lines to eat, to get off the ship, to get back on the ship. My goodness, it has to be tough going through customs every time you get off or on one of those things with 5 or 6 thousand other people. But I guess that’s how you get to know so many people. Sorry, you couldn’t pay me enough to get on a cruise ship. And yes, I do deserve my vacations. I have never gotten to take vacations until about 5 years ago. Even at that my vacations are not paid time off from work.

  • Don Bacon

    Stripes, Apr 3

    USS Guardian: CO, 3 others relieved after grounding review

    YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The commanding officer of the former minesweeper USS Guardian and three others have been relieved of duty following the initial investigation into the grounding of the Sasebo-based ship on a reef in the Philippines, Navy officials said Thursday.

    Lt. Cmdr. Mark Rice, executive officer Daniel Tyler, the ship’s enlisted assistant navigator and the officer of the deck at the time of the ship’s grounding were all relieved because they “did not adhere to the standard navy navigation procedures,” Expeditionary Strike Group Seven spokesman Lt. Brian Wierzbicki said.

    Rice and the others were relieved by Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harley, commander of the Sasebo, Japan-based Amphibious Force 7th Fleet. Harley cited a “loss of confidence” in Rice’s ability to command, a common reason cited when Navy commanders are relieved.

  • KennesawJack

    They’ll always find a way to blame it on the skipper, never the bureaucracy that screwed the charts up in the first place.

    • beelp

      Aboslutely right. If a freakin’ meteor hit the ship the brass (the last 3 letters are what they are) in Washington would say “…the CO should have foreseen the event and taken evassive action.”

    • Jack

      True enough…but buck starts and ends with “the old man”.

      • Curtis Conway

        That is how it is supposed to work all the way to the TOP. Today . . . the TOP makes sure it works that way all the way to the bottom.

        • 10579

          spot on.

        • skelnav88

          Thank you for your service.
          You are correct on both counts. Unfortunately, the later prefers it that way.

      • kalpal

        Is that why the enlisted men go to jail and the officers are invited to resign their commissions and seek new employment? The navy will punish the top man but not by sending him to the brig for a few years.

  • Shozbot

    And what happened to the NGA yahoos who were responsible for this update and the other that was missed? Were they removed for “lack of confidence”? If not, why not? There errors have very serious consequences. A 7 or 8 mile error is a very serious error to Special Forces, guided missiles, ships at sea, etc.

  • Charles F. Easter

    If they had just pulled the ship off the reef initially, before it turned sideways, there would have been less reef damage.

    • Don Bacon

      Remember, it had a wooden hull.

  • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

    A ship as expensive as that and it is not putting out sonar waves every millisecond? Boy I hope they got charts of the WW1 and WW2 mines updated.

    • jack anderson

      active sonar pinpoints me as a target for every submarine in the ocean. We never went active unless we were going weapons free immediately after the “ping”

      • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

        When was this Jack, in this day and time? Are we afraid that Russia or China is going to first strike us?

        • jack anderson

          you train like you fight, if radar and GPS navigation is all you know how to do what happens when the Chinese knock the constellation down and lighting off the radar draws cruise missiles

          • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

            Thanks Jack, I see that. No use to train at all for war if it aint going to aid when the war gets going. The B-2’s then need to be flying over Moscow and Beijing day and night. Are they? Who would know? Or more than likely wherever China/Russia’s main communication/leadership is, secondary and so on down the list as far as we can go with visits from the 20 B-2’s. I think one crashed. Don’t think we got the billions to get it back in the arsenal.

          • jack anderson

            no need for all that, we got “reset” and “spring” and all kinds of good global vibes, let’s ground all of them, don’t have the money for anything else anymore anyway

  • Clark Gertner

    ‘Breaking News’ apparently doesn’t know the difference between a map and a chart. Hopefully the “sweep’s” skipper and QMs did. If anyone was navigating by “map” , they would most definitely be heading for trouble. Also, I never understood why they dismantled the ship instead of off-loading everything they could, then use the same floats they use to lift a ship off the bottom to raise it above the reef and float it. That reef must have been VERY near the surface. It is also unclear how the ships sonar didn’t pick up the reef. It is also odd that the “Notice To Mariners” had no reference to chart discrepancies. Ultimately, the Captain is responsible for his vessel. Obama should take a lesson from that since he, apparently, believes that the buck never stops but just keeps sailing throughout the cosmos for eternity.

    • Don Bacon

      Guardian drew 13 feet.

    • beelp

      Could we say “buck him”?

    • http://www.breakingdefense.com/ Colin Clark

      We write for everyone. To non-mariners — most of the world — a map is a map and a chart is a kind of map. For those who don’t know the difference, here is NOAA’s excellent explanation:

      http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/mcd/learn_diff_map_chart.html

      On the other hand, I never call a carrier a boat, but I do calls subs boats.

    • 10579

      who actually charted those waters NOAA. by the way for those who don’t know maps are for land and charts are for water

  • MRHapla

    Obammy’s $100,000,000 Africa Tour could have bought how many new minesweepers? The family vacas could pay for operational costs for how many years?

    • Simmie Bryant

      Fool

      • MRHapla

        Ah yes,,,, the official Ebonics retort. Typical, ghetto reply. No thought, no counter argument.

    • beelp

      Oh, that’s SO racist. As the very FIRST black family they are entitled to many expensive and extravacant vacations. Just look at how often GW took vacation….to Crawford, Texas. That cost no more than 2 or 3 mil, but let’s cut the current first family a break.

      • MRHapla

        Heheh,, I too am fluent in sarcasm.

        • beelp

          I don’t know what a state of the art minesweeper costs, but that $100 mil would have been a good chunk of it. Notice how the Repub. wimps didn’t do a thing about it? Nary a word was spoken. How is it that the top dog has NO limit on things like vacation expenses and staff budgets?

          • 10579

            he also has no limit on knowing how to lead a nation. the guy is 8 miles from governing a nation.

  • Peio
  • Don Bacon

    tubbatahareef.org, April 8

    On April 5, during a meeting of the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB), marine scientists reported that the damage to corals caused by the grounding of US Navy ship USS Guardian measures 2,345.67 square metres.

    The TPAMB will contact the US Navy and US Embassy to detail the violations committed in relation to the USS Guardian grounding and expects the payment of PhP58.4 million, USD1.5 million, in fines by the US Government. This amount is the total of the penalties for violating Tubbataha Act (Republic Act 10067) Section 19 (Unauthorized entry), Section 20 (Damages to the reef), Section 21 (Non- payment of conservation fees), Section 26g (Destroying, disturbing resources) and Section 30 (Obstruction of Law Enforcement Officers).

    The seabed in the grounding area is currently dominated by algae but marine scientists are still confident that the reefs will be able to recover. They predict that the presence of herbivore fish feeding on the algae and the proximity of healthy reefs to seed coral larvae will contribute to Tubbataha’s recovery.

    also on April 8:

    On 8 April 2013 a 48-meter (157-foot) Chinese fishing vessel ran aground on the North Atoll inside Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, a marine reserve with a strict “no-take” policy. This is the second boat this year to collide with Tubbataha, one of the most diverse and productive reefs on the planet. It has been just once week since the shipwreck of US Navy vessel the USS Guardian was removed from the South Atoll, where it ran aground in January.

  • ROBINHOOD7200

    the Navy will most likely still ruin the captains carreer even though he is no more responcible than the ships cook! There is an old proverb that say’s don’t give up the ship. But there isn’t one that say’s don’t give up the crew. There should be.

  • Don Bacon

    Looks like the Guardian was joyriding. Too bad it destroyed the ship and the reef, plus costs of $25m salvage and $1.5m fines.

    According to a statement from US 7th Fleet Public Affairs, the USS Guardian had completed a routine fuel stop in Subic Bay and was on the way to Puerto Princesa for a short visit. Subic Bay is about 100 kms north of Manila Bay in Zambales Province on Luzon’s west coast. Puerto Princesa is a holiday place down on Palawan Island (Province). (Philippines map)

    The Tubbataha Reef is an atoll coral reef and a Natural Marine Park in Sulu Sea, Philippines comprising two huge atolls (the North Atoll and South Atoll) and the smaller Jessie Beazley Reef. The park is a Marine Protected Area (MPA) located 150 kilometres (93 mi) southeast of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

  • jack anderson

    I used to Navigate a destroyer (long before GPS) in these waters and was often frustrated by cryptic “X”s on the chart with helpful notations “reportedly HMS Lion struck a reef and sank here in 1869″ …..!

    But in this instance the visible navaids ( a light house) did not correspond to the chart plotter, and since these lazy bums no longer physically plot LOPs on paper charts they grounded. The should dock the cost of the ship from the Quartermaster of the Watchs pay check! And the OOD should get 20 to life in Leavenworth!

    • crowmo

      Obama could take another vaccation for this amount of money, bet he did not think about that!!

  • Hugh Shakeshaft

    An OS can never fill the shoes of a QM.

    • jack anderson

      can’t even write backwards on a grease board

  • Chris Cavas Fan

    Untold? Chris Cavas at Defense News reported much this in January. From Mr. Cavas’ story:

    “On Jan. 18, the service revealed that a digital chart used by the ship to navigate in the region misplaced the location of a reef by about eight nautical miles, and may have been a significant factor when the ship drove on to the reef on Jan. 17.”

    The rest of the story is here: http://blogs.defensenews.com/intercepts/2013/01/digital-map-error-may-have-led-to-minesweeper-grounding/?repeat=w3tc

    • http://www.breakingdefense.com/ Colin Clark

      First, let me make clear you are not the only Cqvas fan. Right, Chris? Thank you for noting this. I did several searches before writing this story and, as often happens, Defense News results never surfaced. I think you’ll agree we cover the NGA portion of this much more thoroughly. But then Chris doesn’t cover NGA while I have for more than eight years. So now there are (at least) two stories that report this important fact. I bow to Chris.

    • 10579

      I don’t know why they use digital charts because, they are unreliable, ’cause they can be hacked. Why not use physical charts and digital charts and compare the two. If there is a problem you can avoid the problem and avoid wrecking a ship and correct the problem at the same time. plus save the tax payer many dollars.

  • Joe Blow

    Sorry, but based on the Navy’s own investigation, this had less to do with NGA than a system failure of the ship’s own leadership. Quit trying to pass the buck, as it wasn’t “caused in large part” by a faulty DNC. Ultimate responsibility will always rest with the CO….

    “This tragic mishap was wholly preventable and was the product of poor voyage planning, poor execution, and unfortunate circumstances. This investigation uncovers no single point of failure; instead, there were numerous links in the error chain leading up to the grounding. Had any one of which been appropriately addressed, the grounding would have been prevented.”

    http://www.cpf.navy.mil/foia/reading-room/2013/06/uss-guardian-grounding.pdf

  • rkeeeballs

    Strip the ship and turn it into a hotel on the water……Top $ to eat and spend the night.

  • carol caprio

    This is an unconscionable error!!! Navigators are trained NEVER to rely on one chart ,especially in dangerous known reef laden seas!!!! This is just plain lazy seamanship due to the reliability of the latest satellite imaged charts.
    By the way, do you notice the marked difference in COLOR of the shallow water….How ’bout looking where you are going !!!!!

  • ycplum

    “The other side of this story is that the US Navy has lost one of its comparatively rare assets for finding and destroying sea mines, one of the gravest — yet least prominent — threats to our interests in the Persian Gulf and Korean waters.”
    That’s because minelayers are not glamorous or expensive enough for Congress.

  • George

    The captain of a U.S. naval vessel, whether he’s a petty officer or a lt. commander, is always ultimately responsible for his ship and its crew.

  • ROBINHOOD7200

    There you go, give the ship bad maps, then hang the Captain because they used them!

  • Bob Couttie

    This is hardly new untold information, it was published in February. The 8 miles error isn’t much of a defence – under US Navy regulations the vessel should not have been nearer than 12 miles from the reef, had those regulations been adhered to it would have missed the reef. A note on the chart advises against depending on satellite-derived positions and to use visual and other means of navigation. The GPS system which was giving its position provided satellite-derived position so should not have been depended upon. Had they used alternative methods they would have realised that the flashing light they assumed to be a fishing boat was a lighthouse on the reef and comparison of the bearing with the radar image would have confirmed that. It was known on the bridge that there was a discrepancy between the DNC and other available information but it was ignored. While the chart error contributed to the grounding it only did so because good seamanship principles were not being followed.