Ore carrier Stellar Daisy vanishes in South Atlantic


These are the letters in the original handwritten format. Thank you to the crew of the MV ELPIDA and all others that have been involved with the SAR.


While I don’t believe that anything literally exploded, a major structural failure within a few seconds can be quite loud.


I think that you are right. A ship while breaking up could probably produce explosion like sounds.


I wouldn’t think South Korean shipping companies have too much room to maneuver at this point when it comes to shipping accidents. The president of S. Korea was just recently overthrown because of corruption, one of the biggest issues was the loss of the Sewol.


I suppose that Polaris Shipping is rather panicky right now also because IMO probably are starting an investigation. That means that the entire conversion program from VLCC to VLOC will be under scrutiny.

Conversion program Polaris Shipping

Stellar Cosmo -2008
Stellar Daisy - 2008
Stellar Eagle -2009
Stellar Fair - 2009
Stellar Galaxy - 2010
Stellar Liberty - 2010
Stellar Neptune -2010
Stellar Hermes -2011
Stellar Iris - 2011
Stellar Journey - 2011
Stellar Knight - 2012
Stellar Magic - 2012
Stellar Ocean - 2012
Stellar Pioneer - 2012
Stellar Queen - 2012
Stellar Rio - 2013
Stellar Samba - 2013
Stellar Topaz - 2013
Stellar Unicorn - 2013

The federation of Korean Seafarers have said:

It’s an undeniable fact that both the Sewol and the Stellar Daisy have several things in common. Both vessels were retrofitted and classed by the Korean Register of Shipping.

In Korea there is a historical deeply rooted intertwinement between the business world and the government rulers for which they even have a word: kiri kiri. A kind of bureaucratic maffia who do not take the rules to serious and which mentality will be hard, if not impossible, to break down and wipe out. A good example of the intertwinement is The South Korean Ship Association, a lobby club for the shipping industry which also apart from inspecting ships, at the same time certifies the safety of ships. The butcher who certifies his own meat. Remember that the sinking of the Sewol was the result of a conspiracy of ship owners, class and other government authorities.

The president of South Korea, ms Park, announced after the Sewol tragedy that the Coastguard in its present form would be dismantled. A part will be integrated with the National Police and another part will be brought to a new department called National Emergency Safety Agency. However, that is a process that will years to accomplish.

In general the Korean culture has a kind of cowboy mentality where there is little respect for rules, safety or human lives. It is a ppali-ppali (fast-fast) society where often short cuts are taken to book results. In view of all this it is simply not in the genes of a Korean master to refuse to sail with an unfit ship or not to load a faulty cargo. In another thread the same mentality in the Korean air line industry was discussed which led to serious crashes In which many died.

The ongoings in the shipping industry are just a reflection of that society and as a result I think that it will be very tough to change the culture in the shipping world unless you could change the Korean culture in general.


In many articles related to the Stellar Daisy disaster liquefaction of the sinter fines cargo is mentioned as the probable cause. As a tanker man I do not think that this is correct. This ship is basically still a tanker with center and wing tanks. Okay, there were some modifications made such as installing hatches, putting in a double bottom and strengthening of girders, stringers etc but it is still a tanker which is used to handling of a fluid cargo, whether it is crude oil or liquified ore. The only difference being that the ore is about the twice the weight of the oil.

On both port and starboard side of the ship there are five empty wing tanks and a slop tank, 12 tanks in total. Even if the entire cargo was liquified the buoyancy of all those tanks would prevent the ship from capsizing. That is just impossible in my opinion. Even the collapse of one of more of the wing tanks would not put the ship in harms way. What is detrimental is the fact that the ship was built as a tanker and was not intended to be (rapid) shock loaded with a heavy ore cargo which can lead to an increase in metal fatigue. Add to that the increased bending and twisting forces due to the double weight cargo when the ship is underway and specially in bad weather and such. Cracks can grow unnoticed and pretty quick under these circumstances. A big problem is that classes are in a learning curve and still have little knowledge and expertise about this type of converted VLCC’s. I expect that more of similar incidents will happen in the future.

With a VLOC which was originally built as a bulk carrier this is an entirely different story as such a ship has no wing tanks which in case of liquefaction of the ore cargo can indeed present a serious problem.


Having written the above only minutes ago, the ink is not yet dry, I now learn that the Stellar Cosmo, which ship was appointed as the ‘Search and Rescue Coordinator’ for the Stellar Daisy search, has left the location for emergency repairs due to cracks in the ship’s hull! The Stellar Cosmo and Stellar Daisy are the first two of the series, both were converted in 2008. The life span of such a converted VLCC seems to be nine years. Which one is next?

As it turns out it could be that converted tankers are unsuitable to be used as ore carriers. We will wait and see.

I expect that more of similar incidents will happen in the future.

Prophetic words although this one is not fatal…


Some quotes from the article.

Analysts at Alphabulk have dismissed theories that the Stellar Daisy went down because of cargo liquefaction.

Simple metal fatigue, which may have been exacerbated by the increased speed of loading iron ore these days.

This seems to be the end of an era. Scrapping will in the long run be cheaper than the endless repairing of cracks and all the risks involved. Back at the start of the conversion program it looked like a golden deal, a gift from heaven. Single hull VLCC’s had to be scrapped to comply with changed rulings and could be bought cheap. It looked like an ideal moment for the ore community to step in and start converting these oil tankers into ore carriers, not suspecting in any way that the life time of these conversions were shortened considerably by the excessive wear and tear of the ore trade which in the mean time had developed harmful rapid loading procedures.

On top of that there is also the question of the many and large hatches for which enormous holes had to be cut in the deck plating which could have weakened the longitudinal strength of the ship in spite of all the girders, stiffeners, stringers etc that were added to compensate for this.

Is there a naval architect in da house?


From Lloyd’s List a few days ago: https://www.lloydslist.com/ll/sector/dry-cargo/article553608.ece

[quote]But there are around 47 such vessels which were converted into VLOCs in the current global fleet, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence data.
Most of these vessels have already reached their demolition age of close to 27 years.[/quote]

Conversion may be a cheap way of keeping old obsolete ships trading, but the pitfall of development in the market and technology may catch up with you.
In this case the development of faster loading could well be a factor:

[quote]He pointed out that there was very high stress on the hull when loading high-density cargoes such as iron ore, and the same held true for custom-built newer vessels specially designed to carry iron ore.
There had been cases in the past in which relatively modern capesize vessels snapped in half and sank in port while loading iron ore in Brazil, he said.[/quote]


A spokesperson for Polaris in Singapore said today, replying to questions posed about the Stellar Cosmo, that the alarm monitoring system on board the ship did experience a small issue which has been fixed in the mean time by the crew. An earlier report stated that a crack in the hull was the cause for the sudden departure from the disaster scene.

I probably have a suspicious mind but it remains strange that for such a ‘small issue’ the ship, which coordinated the search, left the search area in such an apparent hurry.


I don’t know why the Cosmos left the scene. However my experience is that when it comes to participation in a search, in general ships tend to leave the scene with a flimsy excuse after a cursory search.


I agree, such things happen. Only in this case the search was for the survivors of a sister ship of the same company and with this in mind you would not expect them to tiptoe away with some sort of excuse. But then you never know…


For what it is worth what follows here are some personal considerations, observations, thoughts and ideas which might be relevant to the loss of the mv Stellar Daisy, it is not more than that. The basis is the fact that the ship broke up with a loud explosion as was related by the two survivors. The explosive sound was probably caused by the immense forces coming free during the breaking up of the shell and deck plating, these things do not go easy and silently.

During the design phase of a ship the fatigue assessment is an important issue. The object is to try to capture an average value for the entire trading life of a ship, normally about 25 or 27 years; hence a conservative mean SG value of 0.9 is normally selected for this purpose. The specified cargo SG of 0.9 for fatigue assessment is a minimum value. A higher value may be specified by the owner or designer. For crushed iron ore the SG is 2.1 - 2.9. In other words a tanker is not really well suited for the transport of iron core in terms of fatigue. It requires little imagination to see that the stresses upon a hull when originally configured for the carriage of oil will be very different to that experienced with the central holds carrying heavy ore.

Bulk carriers in particular become progressively weaker due to continuous corrosion. In addition, the repetitive cycles of changing loads and the resulting stresses due to hogging, sagging, panting, pounding and vibration all increase fatigue.

Deterioration of ships hull / structure through corrosion, fatigue and damage is identified as a principal factor in the loss of many ships carrying cargo in bulk . Failing to identify such deterioration may lead to sudden and unexpected accidents. Bulk carrier crews may be unaware of the vulnerability of these vessel types. The consequential loss of a ship carrying heavy cargo can be expected to be very rapid, should a major failure occur.

Solas Chapter XI-1, requires bulk carriers to comply with the enhanced survey programme (ESP) of inspections, including regular inspection of the cargo hold by ship’s personnel. However, owing to the time constraints in port, ships’ manning levels and charterers’ requirements, it is recognised that this may not always be feasible as this is an enormous task time consuming job, due to the size of the ship and that under dangerous circumstances. For instance center and especially wing tanks should be (force) ventilated for such inspections. Also a trained eye is required. The crew members carrying out such inspections must know exactly what to look for and which places are critical.

The conversion of a crude oil carrier into a ship designed to carry iron ore at the same draught is a huge operation with literally miles of welding and several thousand tonnes of new steel to be incorporated. Welding new steel to old steel is not easy and has to be carried out in a specific way. In those days when the conversions took place all first tier yards were filled up with work and they were not particularly keen to take on a conversion. As a result the conversions were carried out mostly by second tier yards under Korean class supervision which does not have a very good reputation as already argued before.

Also tankers are longitudinally framed, unlike bulkers, which are laterally configured. A tanker has enormous longitudinal strength, but the cutting of huge holes in the weather deck for hatches will require substantial compensation. The new cargo will be carried in what had been the tanker’s centre tanks, with the bottom and sides of these spaces massively reinforced for the piles of heavy ore that will be carried.

The cause of the sinking of the Stellar Daisy may never be known. I am curious about the outcome of the official investigation and especially if the ruling will be adapted to improve the safety of bulk carriers. A repeat of any more conversions from VLCC to VLOC is not to be expected, so much is already clear.

In the mean time also the “International Association of Classifying Societies”, IACS, say that they are ‘anxious’ about the Stellar Daisy loss.

As yet, IACS does not have sufficient confirmed information to comment or in any way speculate on the cause of the vessel’s tragic loss, Robert Ashdown, the secretary general of IACS, told Splash.


On paper, these bulkers are loaded correctly and inspected regularly by trained, competent personnel. Docuements like that IACS paper describe a system with no loopholes. If there is a failure it will be human error, most likely crew error. In this case a failure of the crew to find and reports cracks in the hull structure.

Instead of producing these beautiful, tightly organized but worthless documents someone should come down to the dock when the ship is being loaded and see how things work in practice.

Anytime I see the phrase “more training is required” I take that to mean we don’t know what to do about this problem and have given up trying to solve it.


Sipping a beer and watching the Stellar Unicorn still lying at her anchorage…

The departure of the ship has been delayed considerably. It does not seem to be just a small crack but possibly something major. In the mean time Polaris Shipping is silent and has nothing to report. The scary thing is that this ship was converted rather recently. It was the last of the series and delivered in 2013.

The Stellar Cosmo is headed for Singapore and expected to arrive on May 12. I probably would be sleeping there on a mattress on the boat deck, raft at hand.


Polaris Shipping is now really taking some serious action to make a fleet wide inventory of possible hull damage. Rather special is that LR will supervise Korean Register! That means loose face in Asian circles… In view of there negative track record a wise move indeed! I hope that they will publish the outcome as soon as it becomes available.

For those vessels which pass the initial onboard inspection, as each vessel arrives at its earliest load or discharge port, it is being subjected to special survey by a team consisting of three dedicated senior superintendents from Polaris Shipping, three Korean Register classification surveyors and two engineers from Tae-Yang, a specialist steel strength gauging company.

In addition, Polaris Shipping has engaged the services of LR who have committed three technical advisers to inspect each vessel in turn and advise on structural strength and design issues.

The ‘repair story’ of the Stellar Cosmo is now replaced by another one which is more plausible. You do not leave that station for a minor technical problem, that was just unbelievable.

“Stellar Cosmo diverted from her voyage to China to the last reported site of the Stellar Daisy to take part in search-and-rescue operations. She has departed early from the scene and is heading to Singapore for bunkers before continuing her contractual voyage to China. The reason for her departure is to allow her sufficient bunkers to reach China and not for reasons of repairs as has been reported.”


Well, it would have been more plausible had they deployed it in the first place. Now it just seems they had more time to come up with a better story.


MV Stellar Unicorn has left the Cape Town anchorage and is now proceeding to her destination in China. The repair, whatever it was, took a good two weeks. The ship shown in the image is obviously not the Stellar Unicorn!


Remember, they were taking bunkers. Yes, two weeks of bunkering, no repairs at all.


Loyds List reported the following, which is not a big surprise anymore but still rather alarming. The article is behind a pay wall so I have no more details.

Spotlight on Polaris and its converted VLOCs

Over 40% of all deficiencies in converted VLOCs over the last five years were found in the Polaris fleet.

Steady as she goes!

The last AIS position of the mv Stellar Cosmo was reported on April 22. Hope all is well…

Another tragedy with a bulker in the North Atlantic but of a totally different nature.