Seoul scales back on Stellar Daisy search

 

Hopes fade for the 22 missing crew members of Stellar Daisy, which sank in the Atlantic Ocean on 31 March. Credit: Malte Schwarz

 

The search vessels deployed by the South Korean government and Polaris Shipping to look for the missing crewof ore carrier Stellar Daisy have concluded their mission.

 

With the increasingly remote chances of finding any remains after scouring the southern part of the Atlantic Ocean for more than three months, future search efforts have been limited to requesting other South Korean-flagged vessels in the vicinity to keeping a lookout.

 

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said in a statement that the government would not dedicate any more resources for another search.

 

Stellar Daisy, an ore carrier loaded with iron ore from Brazilian company Vale, sank in the southern part of the Atlantic Ocean during a routine voyage to China. 

 

Only 2 of the 24 crew members were found alive. The missing seafarers include the South Korean captain, 7 other South Korean seafarers, and 14 Filipino crew members. None has been found during the search. The survivors said Stellar Daisy broke in two before sinking.

 

Initially, ships operated or chartered by Polaris Shipping were involved in the search, but the efforts were scaled down in early May when no bodies were found. 

 

At the persistent requests of the families of the missing seafarers, Polaris Shipping deployed a rescue craft to the site where Stellar Daisy is believed to have gone down. This and another vessel deployed by the Moon Jae-in administration searched the vicinity until 11 July.

 

Families of the missing crew members have reacted to the government's decision by saying it was effectively the end of the search.

 

The group's spokesperson, Huh Kyung-joo, who has been instrumental in calling for continuing search efforts, demanded to meet foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha.

 

Polaris Shipping has come under fire for reporting the accident to the government 12 hours after it was notified of the emergency. It has been suggested that Polaris Shipping missed the "golden time" to evacuate all the crew.

 

The incident is the worst maritime disaster involving a South Korean-owned ship after the capsizing of the ferry Sewol in April 2014, and has been dubbed 'Sewol number-two' in local media.

 

The loss of Stellar Daisy has 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, Stellar Queen.

 

The offices of Polaris Shipping and the Korean Register of Shipping, which classed Stellar Daisy, have also been raided by the Busan Coast Guard as part of its investigations into the Stellar Daisy sinking.

 

Contact Xiaolin Zeng at arachelle0@gmail.com

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