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USS Guardian relied on 'inaccurate' digital maps of Tubbataha - intel agency


A US Navy minesweeper that ran aground on the Tubbataha Reef last January carried digital nautical charts containing “inaccurate” data placing one of the world's best known dive sites “approximately eight nautical miles east-southeast of its actual location,” according to a Philippine News Agency (PNA) report Wednesday.

The USS Guardian damaged 2,345.67 square meters of the reef, declared a World Heritage Site for its wealth of marine life, when it repeatedly rammed into a coral reef slope. The vessel had to be removed piece by piece on site to prevent further destruction on the reef.

As of July, the US Navy had yet to pay for the damage, according to the Tubbataha Management Office.


Citing documents made public based on a “Freedom of Information Request,” the state-run PNA said the US government's National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) discovered the error during an initial review of the nautical charts supplied to the USS Guardian.
 
“Although our General DNC holdings are consistent with our hard copy charts and displays the reef in the correct location, our Coastal DNC was incorrect,” NGA director Letitia Long said in an unclassified memorandum to the US Navy's chief of naval operations.

She said the charts contained erroneous commercial satellite imagery, prompting the NGA to conduct a comprehensive review of its source data.
 
Long's NGA memo was posted online on July 29 at the governmentattic.org watchdog website.
 
The PNA report also quoted from an earlier 160-page post-wreck investigation report in which Admiral Cecil Haney, the commander of the US Pacific Fleet said the "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."

The USS Guardian relied exclusively on GPS for their navigation and ignored the flashes from the lighthouse on Tubbataha's south islet, the investigation report said.
 
Haney said last May 22 that the “lack of leadership” consisted of the “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).”
 
The commander, assistant navigator, and officer on deck when the USS Guardian grounded “were relieved of their duties on April 3... Further administrative action is under consideration.”  — ELR, GMA News
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