Stellar Daisy Families Call for Search for Second VDR


Published Aug 10, 2019 1:30 AM by The Maritime Executive

The Committee of MV Stellar Daisy (Korean) Families & The Citizens Committee of MV Stellar Daisy have released a statement calling for more information about a broken data chip in the vessel's voyage data recorder (VDR). The families have also called on the South Korean government to search for a second VDR presumed to still be at the site of the wreck.

The South Korean ore carrier MV Stellar Daisy sank in 3,400 meters of water in the South Atlantic Ocean on March 31, 2017.  Only two Philippine sailors were rescued from 24 crew members (eight Korean and 16 Filipinos).

The Republic of the Marshall Islands concluded that the likely direct cause of the vessel's foundering was a rapid list to port following a catastrophic structural failure of the ship's hull. However, the ship's classification society Korean Register has disagreed on some key points.

The Korean government hired exploration company Ocean Infinity to find the vessel earlier this year and retrieve the VDR, and the Korean government released the results of the data extraction analysis on July 26, 2019.

Only part of the information was made available, say the families. This did not include voices of crew members during the last moments before the vessel sank. The VDR has two data chips, but one was cracked, making data extraction impossible. From the other data chip, only seven percent of the data has been recovered.  

“The company in the U.K. which extracted Stellar Daisy's VDR explained that it was the first time they saw a data chip with cracks, and it is a rare case worth mentioning at an international seminar. The company has successfully recovered information from more than 10 VDRs in the past. Nothing has been revealed to us regarding the cause of damage of this one data chip,” say the families.

“Currently, we are wondering how the VDR’s data chip has become damaged. It is a well-known fact that vessel’s VDR is a tamper-proof device designed to withstand the extreme shock, impact, pressure and heat which could be associated with a marine incident (fire, explosion, collision, sinking, etc.) We can only make a guess at some possible scenarios as to how it could happen.”

The families then go on to question the procedures undertaken to preserve the VDR. Their statement cites U.S. National Transportation Safety Board procedures which state that the 'VDR should not be allowed to air dry and should be first flushed with freshwater, then placed in deionized water as soon as it is brought to the surface. Ideally, the deionized water should be replaced and replenished at regular intervals. The VDR would then need to be taken to a laboratory to undergo proper disassembly and drying procedures.'”

The families say: “We feel appalled about the poor result of VDR data extraction, from which we had hoped to check voices of crew members, which are crucial to determine the cause of the accident.

“In the case of El Faro, which sunk in 2015, its voyage records and sailors’ voices were recovered. In addition, Air France 447 which crashed into South Atlantic in 2009 also saw its cause of accident resolved with the help of successful extraction of voices of crew members following retrieval of the “black box” from 4000 meter-deep-sea, two years after the incident.

“Luckily, there are two VDRs in MV Stellar Daisy. We demand that the Korean government to do a secondary deep-sea search soon to recover the rest, which supposedly has the same information as VDR recovered from the first search. We are certain that the recovery of the additional VDR will help find out the exact cause of sinking.”