On February 24, the 340 meter long, 300,660 dwt bulk ore carrier Stellar Banner ran aground in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Maranhão, Brasil. The 4 year old ore carrier had departed from the Vale terminal Ponta da Madeira in São Luís, Brasil loaded with iron ore bound for Qingado, China. The Stellar Banner only traveled a short distance when vessel developed a sharp list to starboard. An inspection by the crew found the ore carrier had hull cracks and water ingress into the cargo holds. The crew alerted authorities who dispatched multiple tugs to the scene. As the list increased on the vessel, the master of the Stellar Banner decided to run the ore carrier aground rather than risk it sinking. The Stellar Banner was later ran aground on a sandbar some 100 kilometers offshore. The 20 crew on board were evacuated off the Stellar Banner. No reports of injuries.
Authorities state an oil sheen was seen around the hull of the Stellar Banner. A response vessel was dispatched to manage the released pollution. Vessel owners, port authorities and the Navy have teams in the area trying to develop a salvage plan. No details yet reported if the Stellar Banner can be salvaged without the iron ore cargo being lightered beforehand. Some reports state there is additional hull damage near the bow suggesting that the vessel may have struck bottom or an object when it left port.
This isn’t the first VLOC, very large ore carrier, to sustain hull failure after cargo loading. In 2011, the Vale Beijing sustained cracks in the ship’s ballast tanks. The Stellar Unicorn and Stellar Queen also sustained hull cracks. The VLOC Stellar Daisy foundered in March 2017 with the lost of all hands possibly due to improper cargo handling.