Polaris VLOC crew evacuated after vessel lists

Stella Banner listed heavily to starboard off the coast of Brazil. Credit: FleetMon

Twenty crew members on Polaris Shipping’s very large ore carrier (VLOC), Stellar Banner, were evacuated on 25 February 2020, after the vessel listed.

South Korean shipowner Polaris told SAS that at around midnight UK time, the 300,630 dwt VLOC began listing heavily to its starboard, not long after departing from Brazilian miner Vale’s terminal in Ponta da Madeira.

Polaris specialises in ore carriers and its Marshall Islands-flagged ship, built in 2016, was loaded with iron ore. Stellar Banner was bound for Qingdao, China.

Polaris said, “The vessel made contact with an unidentified shallow seabed after departing Ponta da Madeira, Brazil, on 24 February at approximately 9:30 pm local time. All crew members are safe, and no water pollution has been reported.

“As a result of the incident, some ballast water tanks and void space suffered damage, although the extent of damage [is] to be further established. All cargo holds are believed to be intact and the situation is under control.”

SAS was told that surveyors from Korean Register of Shipping, which classed Stellar Banner, are expected to assess the vessel damage. As of 27 February, Stellar Banner is afloat 65 nautical miles [120 km] off Ponta da Madeira. South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries has also been informed of the incident.

Vale issued a statement on 26 February that the incident happened outside the port access channel, adding that the ship captain grounded the vessel about 100 km off Sao Luis.

The miner said, “Vale is offering technical-operational support, sending tugs, and collaborating with maritime authorities. Port operations remain normal, with no impact on shipments.”

This incident comes just a week after a Busan court handed Polaris chairman Kim Wan-joong a six-month imprisonment for his role in the sinking of 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 two Filipinos were rescued; however, 14 Filipinos and eight South Koreans still remain missing. The sinking cast a spotlight on the safety of converted ore carriers.