VLOC STELLAR DAISY: biased stories; who’s to profit? : Apr 17 UPDATE

April 1, 2017 at 12:23 by Mikhail Voytenko in Accidents

STELLAR DAISY Disaster Part I: biased stories; who’s to profit?
As I see it, the main cause of STELLAR DAISY disaster is on the verge of being found, thanks to SPLASH24/7 probe into the tragedy. Everything points at shipowner, Polaris Shipping, and initially, bad idea of converting tankers into VLOCs. SPLASH24/7 is real busy with collecting evidence, bringing up something new nearly every day.
I find SPLASH24/7 journalist investigation rather, well, strange. Some facts weren’t ever mentioned by SPLASH24/7; some go unproven as just somebody’s words taken for facts; and any new development is considered to be one more proof of SPLASH24/7 STELLAR DAISY disaster theory: “Shipowner exploited old converted ships, prone to accidents, neglecting crews’ safety. Converted VLOCs are dangerous”.
Read full story: http://www.odin.tc/en2016/read.asp?articleID=371

Apr 5 UPDATE 9: Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay each sent a warship to the scene, ETA from Apr 6 through Apr 9, with a Brazilian warship first to arrive, on Apr 6 afternoon. If lucky, they’ll find some debris, one life raft which is still missing, and dead bodies. The only smallest, tiniest hope is, missing life raft may be somewhere afloat … follow updates at Maritime Bulletin http://www.odin.tc/en2016/read.asp?articleID=326

Apr 5 UPDATE 8: Brazilian Navy destroyer with a helicopter said to arrive on the scene in the afternoon April 5, according to Korean media.
According to two survivors, at least several crew members were on open decks of doomed bulk carrier, ready to leave her, wearing life jackets and immersion suits. There’s a very good chance (there’s almost no doubt, I’d say), that several other crew members except rescued, survived sinking of the vessel. But they didn’t make it, in the long run. Four merchant vessels initially deployed in SAR did all they could, they physically couldn’t do more than they did. The plane sent to disaster site could miss people in the water, it missed even life rafts. Only sheer luck could help people in water – in form of merchant ship spotting them just by a chance. It could be quite another story, with helicopter on the scene.
Now, let’s check those Brazilian, Uruguayan and Argentina Navy ships, sent to SAR. There are already at least three ship sent to the area, with Brazilian destroyer leading.
Brazilian destroyer, be it sent in time (i.e. morning Apr 1), could reach disaster site by early morning local time Apr 3, even at some 25 knots speed, though speed couldn’t be less than 30-35 knots, of course providing Navy sent a modern destroyer with no mechanical problems. The distance destroyer has to cover is some 1,500 nm, some 60 hours at a reduced (for destroyer) speed of 25 knots, it’s two and a half days, minus several hours – because destroyer could air helicopter some 100-200 or more miles off the site. Helicopter could, being short of fuel, land on any of four merchant ships deployed in SAR, they’re all bulk carriers with helipads on cargo deck. Still too much time – morning Apr 3 – for people in water to survive, but immersion suit could be a good chance to make it. If rescuers find people in the water, in life jackets or in immersion suits, already beyond survival, it will mean, that the SAR failed utterly, by late dispatch of Navy ships with helicopters. On photos released by Uruguayan Navy (sent to Navy from merchant ships) moment of rescue survived Filipino crew; empty and damaged lifeboat.

Apr 4 UPDATE 7: No news from SAR site and participants, general feeling is, all hands save two rescued, are lost. There’s still hope, though. With helicopter on the scene, somebody, something, may be found yet. But there are no news on helicopter arrival yet. Korea seems to accept as the main version crack or cracks in the hull, which lead to water ingress, cargo liquefying and as a result, cargo shift, being a fatal blow. So disputes and speculations, generally, concentrate on probable causes of cracks. Many already blame owner and vessel’s condition, which they believe, was not safe. It may be so or it may not be so, or it may stay mystery forever, adding one more case to a list of disasters, which remain mystery.
There’s a chance, though, that the mystery may be solved, and rather soon.
If rescued seamen will be able to prove without reasonable doubt, that the cracks emerged during cargo operation in Brazilian port, or shortly after, when vessel could still be turned back, then obviously, Master and Company are to blame for taking unacceptable risk, and continuing voyage.
If cracks emerged during the voyage, halfway between Brazil and South Africa, it should be recorded in Master’s reports to the Company. It will be up to experts and Court to find culprits, and assess their share of guilt.
But if cracks emerged shortly before disaster, the sinking of STELLAR DAISY will remain a mystery, because understandably, survey requiring access to hull, is not possible.
Why did I mention ”able to prove without reasonable doubt”? Because if it wasn’t known for quite some time among crew, if rescued seamen saw the cracks in some last minutes before the disaster, there will be always reasonable doubt, that their testimony is not correct – most of testimonies of those who survived disasters are distorted, and differ from each other. It happens not intentionally, it’s human nature in mortal risk situations.

Apr 4 UPDATE 6: Four merchant ships initially engaged in SAR are leaving disaster site, to be replaced by Polaris bulk carriers: ELPIDA (IMO 9218284) reported to resume voyage, but on the way to Singapore she’ll make a call to Cape Town, to disembark 2 rescued Filipino seamen; Greek bulk carrier SPITHA (IMO 9290153) said to be released, too, with arrival of Polaris’ VLOC STELLAR COSMO (IMO 9007805); Korean bulk carrier CK ANGIE (IMO 9595864) already resumed her voyage; Indian bulk carrier THE ETERNAL (IMO 9344069) either already resumed voyage, or will do so shortly.
Hope to find other survivors is fading. Life jackets and two life rafts said to be found, understood some 40 nm northeast of activated EPIRB position. No news yet on Brazilian Navy destroyer with helicopter.
Speculations on disaster cause or causes in full swing, but nothing concrete and decisive. With regards to version of VLOC broking in two – initial and only source of this version seems to be Uruguayan Navy’s statement, based on rescued Filipino seamen testimony. It’s a second-hand statement, Korea didn’t yet confirm, or even officially mentioned, this version.

Apr 3 UPDATE 5: As of 1230 UTC Apr 3, no news on other crew rescued or life rafts spotted. Brazilian Navy destroyer didn’t yet arrive on the site, though it’s not destroyer that matters, it’s a helicopter she’s carrying. Hopefully, helicopter will join SAR hours before destroyer reaches the site – after all, helicopter may land on board of any of four merchant vessels deployed in SAR initially, when running out of fuel.
Two Filipino sailors, so far the only survivors, were rescued by a Greek bulk carrier ELPIDA (IMO 9218284), which is still participating in SAR. Korea wants both sailors to come to Korea, for obvious reason of being the main witnesses and only survivors (there’s hope still, that they aern’t the only survivors), thus vitally important for investigation. But reportedly, they want to go home, also for obvious reasons.
Four merchant vessels deployed in SAR may soon be released and allowed to resume their voyages. ELPIDA is en route from Argentina to Singapore, i.e. survivors will be, most probably, disembarked in Cape Town.
Some of industry media said that vessel may broke in two before sinking. Korea didn’t ever mention such version. Water ingress, crack or cracks, heavy list and capsizing, but not breaking. Who knows, though.
Blames are already flying around – vessel was old, was converted from tanker, experienced accidents before (mechanical failures, mostly), so on and so forth. Is it not too early? If say, it will be found, without any reasonable doubt, that the crack or cracks appeared while vessel was in Brazilian port, during loading or after, or soon after vessel left port, then we don’t need Sherlock Holmes to nail culprits, it’s Master and Company. If not, if cracks appeared during the voyage, then it’s a different story.

Apr 3 UPDATE 4: One of the two rescued Filipino crew members said vessel developed 15 degrees list prior to capsizing. He went to lifeboat deck starboard, where he met several more crew, wearing life jackets and immersion suits. Lifeboat was already of no use, life raft was released, rescued seaman managed to jump into life raft, but after that, never saw other people who were on deck with him. Another survivor jumped into water from portside bridge wing, and swam away from doomed ship. There’s mentioning of cracks or cracks on main deck, through which water was flooding in.
It does look like, probably, vessel had some structural damage with cracks in hull, with ensuing water ingress during voyage, which in itself, wasn’t deadly, but caused liquefying, cargo shift, developing list and finally, fatal disaster. When did those cracks or crack appear, is unknown. Important question then (if not most important), is the question, whether crack or cracks appeared before, or during voyage. Weather confirmed to be fine at the time of disaster.
As of 0300 UTC Apr 3, at least one of four initially deployed in SAR vessels, South Korean bulk carrier CK ANGIE (IMO 9595864), is continuing SAR.
“The Brazilian destroyer equipped with a rescue helicopter is expected to reach the scene as early as Tuesday (Apr 4), with Polaris Shipping's three merchant ships to arrive by early Tuesday” – says The Korea Herald. Each hour, each minute counts for those who, in all probability, managed to survive disaster (see Apr 2 UPDATE 3). Deployment of rescue helicopter is vitally important, but alas, Apr 4 may be too late.

Apr 2 UPDATE 3: According to latest information provided by Korean CG, there’s still hope that other crew may survive disaster. Vessel sank in less than 5 minutes, EPIRB was activated automatically, there were no other distress signals send from ship itself after capsizing. EPIRB distress signal was received by Marshall Islands Marine Rescue Center (MRCC) at 2352 Mar 31 (understood Seoul time). Initial distress signal was sent via messenger at 2325, i.e. half an hour before EPIRB was activated.
But at 0354 and 03 57 there were two distress signals, sent via Distress Alert DSC, and those alerts can be sent by persons only, not automatically. Signals were sent from position some 6 nm off EPIRB signal position. Four merchant vessels are searching the area, Korea asked Brazil to deploy planes, with revised hope that some or all of the crew may be alive.

Apr 2 UPDATE 2:
According to latest information, obtained from rescued two crew members of VLOC STELLAR DAISY, vessel capsized portside in a very short time, minutes or less. Understood before capsizing vessel developed strong list, because Master ordered all crew to put on lifejackets prior to capsizing. Most tragic situation for crew and especially, for Master – command immediate evacuation, or continue attempts to stabilize vessel? Weather according to meteo map info, seems to be fine. Korean maritime experts mention liquefying of the cargo, which may well be the cause of cargo shift.

Vessel sank in vicinity 34 04S 018 32W, some 350 nm northwest of Tristan Da Cunha Island, some 1800 nm north-north-west of Cape Town.
There’s no doubt that STELLAR DAISY sank, and little doubt that she sank after capsizing. Nothing else could sink vessel, especially of such dimensions, in just several minutes. Latest findings confirm capsizing as the cause of sinking – other ships in the area, deployed in SAR, found a life raft with two seamen in it. Unconfirmed both found seamen are of Filipino nationality. Earlier reports said two lifeboats were spotted, but latest South Korean update said only one life raft was found. It coincides with capsize version. Most of the crew, in capsize disasters, couldn’t even make it to upper decks, caught in superstructure inside’s chaos. Life rafts are semi-detachable and semi-inflamed, they’re actually, the only survival hope of those few who manage to leave capsized vessel.
Latest AIS positions available on several AIS websites (including satellite), are all dated not later than Mar 26. That’s strange. Why there were no signals during five days straight? History of STELLAR DAISY AIS records prior to that last, fatal voyage, doesn’t have such gaps. Calculations show, though, that during those last 5 days of vessel’s journey average speed was some 11 knots, a regular speed for STELLAR DAISY, nothing suspicious or unusual. Probably, AIS track gap is explained by some malfunction.

UPDATE: According to information I was able to get, at 2303 Seoul time, i.e. in 17 minutes before sending distress message, vessel sent regular e-mail with daily report. Company’ duty officer tried all kinds of communications after receiving distress text message, but to no avail. Mammoth vessel disappeared, literally, in some 10-15 minutes. Most probably, it’s capsizing accident, caused by cargo shift.
Voytenko Mikhail

Very large ore carrier STELLAR DAISY went missing in South Atlantic after issuing distress signal at 2320 Seoul time Mar 31, Seoul's foreign ministry said on Apr 1. Manager of the vessel, Polaris Shipping, received distress message, saying that vessel was sinking, via mobile phone-based text application developed and used in South Korea, said Yonhap News Agency. Vessel was en route from Brazil to China. Latest available AIS dated Mar 26, shortly after capsize bulk carrier left Guaiba Island Terminal, Brazil. 24-crew include 8 Korean and 16 Filipino nationalities.

The Stellar Daisy, photographed during medevac by he National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) South Africa in 2014

VLOC STELLAR DAISY: biased stories; who’s to profit? : Apr 17 UPDATE