Vale seeks Petrobras’ aid to clear oil leak from Polaris VLOC

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

Brazilian miner Vale has requested to use compatriot oil company Petrobras’ equipment to clear leaking bunkers from one of Polaris Shipping’s very large ore carriers (VLOCs). 

The ship, Stellar Banner, was grounded after it listed to its starboard on 25 February 2020, not long after departing from Vale’s terminal in Ponta da Madeira, Brazil. 

The Marshall Islands-flagged vessel was loaded with iron ore and was bound for Qingdao, China. 

The ship came into contact with an unidentified shallow seabed after departing from Ponta da Madeira on 24 February at about 21:30 h local time. All 20 crew members were evacuated.  

Some ballast water tanks and void space suffered damage, although the extent of damage is yet to be established. All cargo holds are believed to be intact, and the situation is under control.  

SAS was told that surveyors from the Korean Register of Shipping, which classes Stellar Banner, are expected to assess the vessel damage. As of 28 February, Stellar Banner is afloat 120 km off Ponta da Madeira. South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries has also been informed of the incident. 

In a statement issued on 2February, Vale said that Petrobras has acceded to its request. Vale has also requested maritime authorities to provide offshore ocean buoys should there be a need to contain any oil slicks. 

Vale and Polaris have also hired salvage specialists to expedite the removal of leaking oil. 

This incident comes just after a week when 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.