Leaking Vessel with a Hole in Ballast Tank Held Off South Africa



A POLARIS Shipping-owned very large ore carrier has been held off South Africa with hull cracks.

The 1993-built, 280,000 dwt Stellar Unicorn is moored outside the port of Cape Town awaiting inspections, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence.

The vessel has reported a hole in its ballast tank below the waterline, and a small leak, according to Cape Town Rescue Centre.

The 1976-built, 2,146 dwt tug Smit Amandla has been sent to the scene and a surveyor is due on board Stellar Unicorn.

Stellar Unicorn is registered in the Marshall Islands. The registry said it had dispatched an inspections team to the vessel but could not comment.

The vessel was converted from a very large crude carrier in 2008 at the Shekou yard in China. It was originally built in 1993 at the Sasebo yard in Japan.

This is the second incident involving a VLOC conversion, following the capsize of the Polaris-owned Stellar Daisy last week, which resulted in loss of life. That vessel was carrying iron ore from Brazil for Vale before it went down in high seas off the coast of Uruguay.

Stellar Unicorn has been classed by the Korean Register since 2013.

KR plans to undertake a technical review of similar conversions to the Stellar Daisy, it told Lloyd’s List, but it made no comment on Stellar Unicorn, which was on its way to China from Brazil with 270,000 tonnes of iron ore on board.

Stellar Unicorn is financed by Korea Ship Finance with maturity in 2021 following the payment of all monies owed by Polaris. It is on a 10-year charter to Vale, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence.

Lloyd’s List sought comment from Vale and Polaris.

The local P&I representative, salvors and the South African Maritime Safety Authority were heading out to the vessel to assess the situation. Stellar Unicorn may be allowed to call in South Africa to attend to repairs, although it was unclear which port it could moor at.

Saldanha Bay, about 60 nm northwest of Cape Town, is the biggest iron ore terminal on the continent, capable of accepting capesize vessels of about 310,000 dwt.

The latest incident calls into question the safety of VLCCs built in the 1990s and converted into VLOCs in the last decade.

Intercargo called on relevant parties in the Stellar Daisy incident to submit a casualty investigation report to the International Maritime Organization in a timely manner to address industry safety concerns.

A number of participants at a recent conference in Geneva expected these converted vessels to be removed from the world fleet in coming years due to technical issues relating to the conversions.

Polaris has 27 VLOCs on its fleet list, including two newbuildings and the ill-fated Stellar Daisy. Twenty-one of its VLOCs are crude carrier conversions, according to LLI.

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Source: Lloyd’s List


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