Chinese maritime authorities start inspecting converted ore carriers

Stellar Daisy sank on 31 March. Credit: Malte Schwarz

In the wake of the sinking of the Stellar Daisy, Chinese maritime authorities have begun inspecting older bulk carriers calling at local ports, with a focus on vessels that were converted from single-hull tankers.

Apart from examining the structure of the vessels, other relevant documentation, such as the cargo loading plans and measurements, will be checked.

The inspections apply only to ocean-going vessels aged 15 years and above. Just two survivors, both Filipinos, were rescued after the Stellar Daisy reportedly broke in half and sank in the Atlantic Ocean during a routine Brazil-China trip on 31 March. The 22 missing crew members comprise eight South Koreans and 14 Filipinos.

A significant number of ore carriers discharge iron ore in Chinese ports, as China is the world's largest steel producer and iron ore importer.

South Korea's Polaris Shipping, which owned the Stellar Daisy, is known for operating ore carriers tied to contracts of affreightment with Brazilian miner Vale and other industrial shippers.

The loss of Stellar Daisy, which was converted from a 1994-built oil tanker, has also sparked concerns over the safety of such converted bulk carriers. Shortly after the disaster, another Polaris ore carrier, Stellar Unicorn, had to be diverted to Cape Hope for repairs to a cracked hull, lending more fuel to the speculation.

As of 20 April, Polaris Shipping had initiated inspections on all its ore carriers, amid growing concern over the safety of its fleet. On 8 May, cracks were found on another of the company's vessels, the Stellar Queen. On 25 May, the Busan Coast Guard raided Polaris Shipping's offices in Seoul and Busan, taking away records of voyages and ship repairs.

IHS Markit's vessel-tracking data indicate that Stellar Unicorn and Stellar Galaxy have been laid up in Labuan. The Chinese authorities are targeting ore carriers that were converted from single-hull tankers which were originally built in the early 1990s. The inspections will be carried out according to Port State Control regulations as well as guidelines set out by Tokyo MOU. Ships could be detained if certain deficiencies are found and these deficiencies have to be rectified before the vessels can be allowed to depart the port.

Contact Xiaolin Zeng at

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