Two weeks after the sinking of the Stellar Daisy, the search effort for her 22 missing crewmembers is winding down, and several government assets and merchant vessels have returned to their normal operations.
Brazil has already withdrawn its aircraft from the search, and in a statement Thursday, the Uruguayan Navy said that an American military airplane will cease its participation. The Argentinian corvette Guerrico has also departed the scene, and the Polaris ore carrier Stellar Cosmo left for Cape Town after an inspection revealed the need for repairs.
The Cosmo is the third Polaris VLOC conversion showing some form of deficiency: after the Daisy went down, Polaris ordered an urgent inspection of all 19 of its converted VLOCs, which all began their lives in the 1990s as oil tankers. The review also found cracking on the Stellar Unicorn, which has also headed into port at Cape Town for repairs.
The Uruguayan Navy support ship General Artigas will continue her search pattern, and Navy spokesman Captain Gastón Jaunsolo told media that there is still a possibility of finding the Daisy's missing crewmembers. "Three of the five rafts that [were] on the ship have appeared, [and] we do not have to rule out the other two. The search for survivors remains as planned," he said.
The cause of the Stellar Daisy's sinking may never be known, but two survivors reported a crack in the hull and water ingress before she went down, suggesting that structural integrity played a role. This has drawn attention to the high loading rates employed at some Brazilian ore terminals, which may impose repeated structural stress, and to the conversion process that turned her into a bulker.
Typically, VLCC-to-VLOC conversions like the Daisy were fitted to utilize the center cargo tanks as bulk cargo holds, with the side tanks left empty or used for ballast. A heavy-duty double bottom would be built into the center tanks to take the high loads imposed by the iron ore cargo, and the hull framing would be reinforced and modified. On deck, hatch covers and coamings would be added to each tank. The changes required careful design and the addition of about 6,000 tonnes of structural steel.
The Daisy's conversion was done at Cosco (Zhoushan) Shipyard, a relatively new yard in the Zhoushan archipelago south of Shanghai. According to Cosco Shipyards, Cosco (Zhoushan) has performed repairs and conversions on over 1,600 vessels to date, and it is listed on the Chinese government's official "White List" of preferred shipbuilders.