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Search Launched for the Wreck of the Stellar Daisy

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The Stellar Daisy in 2014 (file image courtesy NSRI)

By The Maritime Executive 2018-12-31 18:49:32

American subsea survey company Ocean Infinity has been hired by the government of South Korea to conduct a search for the Stellar Daisy, the ore carrier that went down with 22 crewmembers in March 2017. The new search will begin in January. 

"We sincerely hope that we can find Stellar Daisy and be able to collect as much evidence about her loss as we can," said CEO Oliver Plunkett in a statement. "As always with deep sea search there can be no guarantee of success as neither the precise location nor the specific circumstances of her loss are known.”

Ocean Infinity operates high-tech AUVs to conduct large-scale detailed surveys, along with ROVs for specific site inspections. The company was involved in the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, and it successfully located the missing Argentinian Navy submarine ARA San Juan in November. The firm recently announced a new charter with Solstad for an additional vessel to support AUV operations and deep water recovery services, and it has recently invested in five new Hugin AUVs, bringing its total fleet to 15 units. 

Unsolved mystery

On March 31, 2017, the converted ore carrier Stellar Daisy went down in the mid-Atlantic, about 2,000 nm from the nearest shore. Her crew's final message reported that she was taking on water and listing, and the two survivors of the casualty reported that her hull cracked before she went down. The remaining 22 crewmembers were never found. 

Over the course of the past year, families of the missing seafarers have petitioned the South Korean government to undertake an effort to find the wreck and recover the Daisy's black box. The campaign gathered more than 100,000 signatures, and it was successful: on Sunday, Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the contract award with Ocean Infinity and said that the search should be completed by March.

The 1993-built Stellar Daisy started life as the single-hulled crude tanker Sunrise III. In the late 2000s, single-hulled tankers were being phased out in favor of double-hull designs, and a Korean bulker firm bought the Sunrise and several other VLCCs for conversion to dry bulk ore carriers. About two dozen vessels with similar conversions are still in operation today. 

A few days after the Daisy's sinking, operator Polaris Shipping confirmed that another of its converted ore carriers, Stellar Unicorn, had a crack on the outer hull. She has since been scrapped at Gadani, Pakistan. Hull cracks were also reportedly found on the Polaris-operated Stellar Queen, another converted ore carrier which is still in service.

In May 2017, South Korean Coast Guard investigators raided Polaris' offices in Seoul and Busan as part of an inquiry into the cause of the sinking.