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Navy cites “lack of leadership” in MCM grounding

Written by Nick Blenkey

Guardian US Navy PhotographJUNE 21, 2013 — The U.S. Navy has released the results of an investigation that assessed circumstances surrounding the ex-USS Guardian grounding that occurred in Philippine waters on January 17.

U.S. Navy salvage assessment team members board the mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5). Subsequently the ship had to be cut in pieces to be removed from Tubbataha Reef

Characterizing the ex-Guardian’s grounding on Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea as a “tragic mishap,” Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, wrote in the 160-page document that “USS Guardian leadership and watch teams failed to adhere to prudent, safe, and sound navigation principles which would have alerted them to approaching dangers with sufficient time to take mitigating action.”

Haney further summarized that a “lack of leadership” led to the watch team’s disregard of visual cues, electronic cues and alarms in the hours leading up to the grounding, and that an ultimate reliance on what would turn out to be inaccurate Digital Nautical Charts (DNC) during the planning and execution of the navigation plan ultimately led to a degradation of the ship’s navigation ability.

Haney did however have words of praise for the “heroic efforts of the crew to save their ship.” Highlighting the actions of the Engineering and Damage Control teams, Haney wrote that their efforts were instrumental in reinforcing the ship’s hull integrity despite multiple breaches. He also commended the Boat Coxswains, Damage Control Assistant, and the Navy rescue swimmers who all ensured the safe evacuation of the crew without significant injuries.

The commanding officer of ex-Guardian, Lt. Cmdr. Mark Rice, the executive officer/navigator Lt. Daniel Tyler, the assistant navigator, and the officer of the deck at the time of the grounding were relieved of their duties on April 3 by Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7. Further administrative action is under consideration.

The Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship had just completed a port call in Subic Bay and was en route to Indonesia and then on to Timor-Leste to participate in a training exercise when the grounding occurred, approximately 80 miles east-southeast of Palawan Island. Guardian was subsequently dismantled, decommissioned and stricken from the naval registry.

After the incident, the United States and Philippines conducted a joint marine damage assessment. The U.S. government is prepared to work with the Philippines to provide compensation for the damage to the reef caused by the grounding.

Guardian and its crews had served the U.S. Navy honorably for over 23 years.

A redacted version of the report can be viewed HERE

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