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Polaris under fire for slow response to VLOC’s disappearance

The search for the missing VLOC Stellar Daisy and 22 out of its 24 crew continues with more ships drafted in to help, but the chances of any survivors being found in the South Atlantic is now deemed remote.

The ship is thought to have split in two and sunk on Friday night. Just two seafarers have so far been picked up, one of whom told the Uruguayan navy how he had texted the owner’s headquarters in Busan as he readied to board a life raft with the ship listing dramatically following a water ingress in the hold. The crew was made up of eight Koreans and 16 Filipinos.

Just how quick the owner, Polaris Shipping from Busan in South Korea, has become a point of debate.
Family members of the missing have lashed Polaris for taking 12 hours to form an emergency response team after receiving the initial distress call. Had Polaris reacted quicker, family members argued, then there would have been a greater chance of successfully rescuing the crew.

The family members also questioned the safety record of the 1993-built ship, which was originally a VLCC before being converted.

A spokesperson for the owner responded, “It is a ship that is old but it is being operated without problems.”

The ship is classed by the Korean Register, flagged with the Marshall Islands and insured by a local firm, Meritz.

Thus far the nearest any of the search and rescue teams has come to a possible sighting of the giant 266,000 dwt ship is an oil slick spotted by a Brazilian aircraft earlier this week as well as three empty liferafts.

Three warships from Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay will arrive at the last reported site of the Stellar Daisy between Thursday and Sunday to join the effort, after being asked by the South Korean government and the Uruguay Marine Rescue Co-ordination Center. The search area has also been expanded.

Polaris officials were unavailable for comment when contacted by Splash today.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. One has to wonder why, when the v/l was in trouble and then sinking, they rang HO, rather than alerting the authorities. Poor sods. 🙁

    1. Panic and fear, most probably. Unless the Master & officers are intimately familiar with emergency procedures and confident in their abilities, it is all too easy for these emotions to cripple them.

      Unfortunately, far too many Companies micro-manage their vessels from ashore these day (thanks to the double-edged swords of email and Satphones), which either leaves the vessel crew second-guessing their every move and leaches their confidence, or leads them to say “well I don’t have to think ‘cos the office will tell me what to do”.

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