Polaris Shipping has moved to secure replacement tonnage for some of its aging very large ore carriers (VLOCs), at least three of which have been found to have cracks in their hulls.
One of these, the Stellar Daisy, sank rapidly this March after what survivors described as a catastrophic structural failure. 22 members of her crew remain missing, putting the Daisy in the ranks of the most costly marine casualties of recent years. A search continues despite fading hopes for their survival, and Polaris has already reached a compensation agreement with the majority of the crewmembers' families.
The Polaris vessels Stellar Queen and Stellar Unicorn were also found to have hull cracking, and anecdotal reports suggest that the Polaris capesize Solar Ember may have similar problems. All but the Ember are converted single-hull tankers dating from the early 1990s; Polaris operates 18 such vessels.
On June 7, Yonhap reported that Hyundai Heavy Industries has secured an order for three 325,000 dwt ore carriers from Polaris for a total of $225 million. Polaris has already purchased a used 210,000 dwt capesize from TRF Ship Management for $45 million as an immediate replacement for the Stellar Daisy. According to Splash, it was TRF's sole bulker.
South Korean authorities are investigating Polaris for its role in the Stellar Daisy sinking, and the South Korean Coast Guard raided its offices in Busan and Seoul for records related to the casualty at the end of May. Investigators are looking to determine the cause of the sinking of the converted VLOC and the alleged “slow reaction” to the distress calls sent from the ship. Separately, the flag state of the Marshall Islands is conducting an investigation into the Daisy's sinking and is examining 12 other VLOCs for related problems.
Mining firm Vale – the charterer of the Daisy and other ships in her class – resumed shipments on converted VLOCs as of the end of May. Three Polaris ore carriers are listed on the firm's current ship tracking database.