Four U.S. Naval officers have been relieved of their duties after running a minesweeper aground in the Philippines.
The U.S. Pacific fleet in Hawaii released a statement today saying that the officers failed to “adhere to standard U.S. Navy navigation procedures.
“The US Navy has the highest accountability standards and all four sailors were relieved by Rear Admiral Jeffrey Harley due to their role in the grounding and a loss of confidence,” the statement said.
The four officers relieved include the ship's commanding officer, executive officer and navigator, assistant navigator, and officer of the deck.
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The minesweeper, named the USS Guardian, crashed into the sea floor in Tubbataha National Marine Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its diverse wildlife. Tubbataha Park is part of Southeast Asia’s Coral Triangle, a huge stretch of ocean containing most of the worlds coral species, reefs, and thousands of species of fish. The ship was on its way to Indonesia to take part in a training exercise when it hit the reef.
The Philippine government has said they may fine the U.S. for up to $2 million over damages to the reef. The U.S. government agreed to dismantle the $277 million ship rather than towing it elsewhere. Naval officers feared towing the ship could cause further damage to the reef.
The superintendent of Tubbataha National Park said the ship damaged over 5,000 square yards of the coral reef. Philippine Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., speaking on behalf of the Philippine President, said “There must be accountability and we will enforce our existing laws."
The U.S. embassy released a statement apologized for the event. "As we have stated in the past, we regret this incident and the United States is prepared to pay compensation for the damage to the reef," the statement said.