Families of Stellar Daisy crew want involvement in underwater search

Stellar Daisy was converted from a 1993-built crude oil tanker that Polaris purchased from Dynacom Tankers in 2007. Credit: Dietmar Hasenpusch
Stellar Daisy was converted from a 1993-built crude oil tanker that Polaris purchased from Dynacom Tankers in 2007. Credit: Dietmar Hasenpusch

Families of the 22 crew members who are believed to have died in the Stellar Daisy sinking in 2017 want to have the right to appoint a salvage company to search for the wreckage.

Stellar Daisy sank during a routine voyage from Brazil to China on 31 March 2017, while loaded with iron ore from Brazilian miner Vale.

The tragedy left 22 of 24 crew members missing and they have been presumed dead. The two survivors claimed that the ship broke in half and sank after listing rapidly to port.

The disaster raised concerns over the safety of Polaris Shipping’s fleet of ore carriers, of which many were converted from single-hull oil tankers that were originally built in the 1990s.

The missing seafarers include the South Korean captain of the Stellar Daisy, seven other South Korean seafarers, and 14 Filipino crew members. Despite a search that lasted more than three months, no bodies were found.

Following intense lobbying from the seafarers’ families, who demonstrated in Gwanghwamun Square and outside the Blue House, South Korean president Moon Jae-in approved an underwater survey of the wreckage, which is believed to lie in the southern part of the Atlantic Ocean.

The families are hoping that the search will recover the voyage data recorder, which could uncover why Stellar Daisy sank.

While Chinese state-owned salvage company Shanghai Salvage, which worked with a South Korean partner to hoist the ferry Sewol, is widely tipped to be chosen to survey Stellar Daisy, the families want to be consulted.

Heo Young-joo, whose brother is among the missing Stellar Daisy crew, is the representative of the bereaved families. “It is important to find out the cause of the accident,” she said.

With regard to the possible selection of Shanghai Salvage, Heo said, “When this company was appointed to raise Sewol, the process did not appear to be transparent and the victims’ families were not consulted. The companies must be chosen fairly and families must participate in the selection process.”