Busan Coast Guard officials have raided the headquarters of the Korean Register (KR) of Shipping as part of investigations into the sinking of the ore carrier Stellar Daisy.
On 29 June, 10 coast guard officials entered the premises of KR in Busan .
The raid comes a month after the Coast Guard searched the premises of Stellar Daisy’s owner, Polaris Shipping, which has offices in Seoul and Busan.
Like almost every South Korean-owned ship, Stellar Daisy was classed by KR.
Just two survivors, both Filipinos, were rescued after Stellar Daisy reportedly broke in half and sank in the Atlantic Ocean during a routine Brazil-China trip on 31 March. The 22 missing crew members comprise 8 South Koreans and 14 Filipinos.
The survivors said Stellar Daisy sank rapidly after listing severely and breaking in two.
The coastguard officials focused their search on computers and equipment in KR’s ship survey department. Seven boxes of documents and hard disks relating to ship surveys were taken away.
While it is understood that the materials relating to KR’s inspection of Polaris Shipping’s vessels did not indicate any issues, the coastguard officials are said to be looking into golfing relationships as well as other forms of entertainment that the shipping company may have extended to the classification society.
The coastguard officials hope to determine the causes behind the Stellar Daisy loss through examining phone records, Polaris Shipping’s initial response to the disaster, and KR’s inspection records.
Prosecutions could follow if criminal activity is suspected. The coastguard officials are looking into whether the ship was poorly managed and if defects were concealed.
The loss of Stellar Daisy has also sparked concerns over the safety of such converted bulk carriers. Shortly after the disaster, another Polaris ore carrier, Stellar Unicorn, had to be diverted to Cape Hope for repairs to a cracked hull, lending more fuel to the speculation.
By 20 April, Polaris Shipping had initiated inspections on all its ore carriers, amid growing concern over the safety of its fleet. On 8 May, cracks were found on another of the company’s vessels, Stellar Queen.
Salvaging the wreckage of Stellar Daisy would be an extremely difficult undertaking, given the depths of the Atlantic Ocean and the fact that the most senior members of the crew remain missing.
Polaris Shipping has faced criticism for reporting the accident to the government 12 hours after the company was notified of the emergency. This suggests that Polaris Shipping missed the “golden time” to evacuate all the crew.
The incident is the worst maritime disaster involving a South Korean-owned ship after the capsize of the ferry Sewol in April 2014, and has been dubbed “Sewol number-two” in the local media.
KR, which classed the ferry, was also searched by the authorities investigating that disaster.
Two search vessels deployed by Polaris Shipping and the South Korean government are now scouring the area where Stellar Daisy went down.