Brazilian Navy completes first stage of oil removal from Stellar Banner

Stellar Banner debunkering operation. Credit: Brazilian Navy

The removal of bunkers from ore carrier Stellar Banner, which ran aground outside Brazil’s Ponta da Madeira terminal, is expected to be completed around 22 March 2020.

The Brazilian Navy said in a press statement that the first stage of bunker removal was completed on 12 March local time, with the marine fuel transferred to anchor-handling vessel ALP Defender.

On 24 February 2020, Stellar Banner, owned by South Korean ore carrier specialist Polaris Shipping, began listing to its starboard, resulting in all 20 crew members being evacuated. The ship had just been loaded with iron ore from Brazilian miner Vale and was bound for Qingdao, China.

The navy said that the Stellar Banner situation remains stable, with local oil group Petrobras having deployed two oil spill response vessels, OSRV C-Atlas and OSRV C-Ambassador, to the scene.

The first stage of the bunker collection picked up 1,390 cubic metres of marine fuel, then transferred to ALP Defender. The plan is for all of the marine fuel to be eventually transferred to another of Polaris’ ore carriers, Stellar Iris.

The Brazilian Navy has mobilised 255 personnel for the task. Six tugs, including four that are equipped to tackle oil pollution, have also been sent to the scene, along with a helicopter, a drone, and a hydrographic survey vessel.

The incident happened a week after a Busan court handed Polaris chairman Kim Wan-joong a six-month imprisonment for his role in the sinking of the ore carrier Stellar Daisy.

The Marshall Islands-flagged Stellar Daisy, which was converted from a single-hull oil tanker built in 1994, sank during a routine Brazil-China voyage in the southern part of the Atlantic Ocean on 31 March 2017. Of its 24 crew members, only 2 Filipinos were rescued; however, 14 Filipinos and 8 South Koreans still remain missing. The sinking cast a spotlight on the safety of converted ore carriers.