Salvors Prepare to Lighter Bunker Fuel from Grounded VLOC
Efforts to remove fuel from the grounded very large ore carrier (VLOC) Stellar Banner are set to begin soon, according to Brazilian environmental agency Ibama. The ship, which went aground off the coast of São Luís, Brazil on February 24, has about 4,000 tonnes of fuel and 290,000 tonnes of iron ore on board.
A minor oil release on the order of 300 liters was detected on February 28, but no additional leakage has been detected in the vicinity of the vessel in recent days, according to Ibama. Two oil spill recovery vessels from Petrobras are now standing by at the grounding site as a precautionary measure, and the containment barrier previously installed around the vessel has been removed.
“Thanks to the support extended by relevant authorities, a group of experts, and Vale, all necessary effort and resources were dedicated to eradicate the risk of pollution since the incident occurred,” shipowner Polaris Shipping said in a statement.
A dive inspection was conducted over the weekend, and the dive team confirmed that the vessel is resting on a sandbar and is in stable condition. The Stellar Banner was intentionally grounded after she began taking on water towards the bow; the divers have attempted to check the hull for damage, but their efforts have been stymied by strong subsurface currents, according to the Brazilian Navy.
"Overall analysis indicates that the weight of the vessel is well distributed on the sand bank without specific points of stress on the hull, thus the vessel remains stable with its own power,” said Polaris.
A bunker barge has been dispatched to the scene to begin lightering off the Stellar Banner's fuel oil, and the process will begin soon. “The detailed de-bunkering plan was submitted to the [Brazilian] Navy for review and the operation will be completed in the coming weeks, weather permitting,” the company said.
Ardent Global has been appointed the lead salvor for the mission.
According to local media, the Federal Police (PF) bureau in Maranhão has opened an investigation into "possible environmental crime" in connection with the casualty. The Brazilian Navy has already opened an administrative accident investigation.