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First pictures of the USS Guardian breakup and removal from Tubbataha Reef, shows her top (Funnel) coming off.

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There are claims the authorities plan the removal to be complete by 23rd March. As the operation is weather dependant, and given the delays to date,  that seems like an aggressive schedule.

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As a Minesweeper, her hull is Wooden, so they are about to get the Chainsaw’s buzzing to her cut up. The USS Guardian, whoose value was estimated at US$ 277 million will be a Total Loss. A sad end to US Naval vessel that had some of the most sophisticated sonar and navigation electronics onboard.

The initial explanation for her grounding was a discrepency between her Electronic Charts (ECDIS) and “reality”. The size of the bust; reportedly 8 nautical miles !

This Chart produced by the Philippine Coast Guard indicates her position on the Reef. The ‘reality’.

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This chartlet illustrates her position as believed to be presented onboard the vessels Electronic Navigation systems. The ‘bust’.

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This is a view of the area as seen from a Helicopter some time later.

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The distance between going on her way and ending up as matchsticks was likley only around 300 metres to the west, where she would have scraped past the edge of the reef. So close but yet so far.

It does make you wonder what level of lookout was being maintained on the bridge of the vessel, both by eye and by radar. Depending on the state of the tide and the weather, the reef and breaking waves may have been visible. It is stated the reef has more than 3 to 5 feet of sea water covering at high tide, but the Black Rock feature and the Navigation Light Marker at the South of the structure should have been visible on Radar.

Also as the vessel had been called by the Park Rangers on the reef, there should have been a higher level of vigilance onboard.

It is easy to just roll along trusting the instruments that have always been right before, but there always has to be a ‘calibration’ with reality no matter where you are, and Radar is an excellent tool to do that.

At the end of the day there is no substitute for keeping a vigilant lookout, and examining any surrounding features both by eye and by radar.

Most accidents would seem to be avoidable if a good lookout is maintained and by taking cautionary actions early, when anything unexpected comes along.

I am sure that somone will soon be flipping burgers instead of flipping through charts as a US Naval personnel.

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