08 JUNE 2020
The Brazilian Navy has authorized the scuttling of the damaged VLOC Stellar Banner at a position about 80 nautical miles off the coast of Maranhão, Brazil.
The Stellar Banner suffered damage to her bow during her departure from the Vale-operated Ponta da Madeira Maritime Terminal in Maranhão on February 24. Her 20 crewmembers were evacuated safely, according to Vale, and “the vessel’s captain [grounded] the vessel about 100 kilometers off the coast of São Luís” as a precautionary measure. The vessel took on a heavy list after the grounding but did not capsize.
Efforts to lighter off her fuel got under way in March and finished on April 12. Over the course of the month-long operation, about 3,900 cubic meters of fuel oil were removed from the vessel’s tanks. The cargo lightering operation got under way shortly after and concluded on June 2; salvors removed a total of about 140,000 tonnes of iron ore from the Stellar Banner’s holds. After lightering and other measures, the vessel’s list was reduced from about 25 degrees to about 13 degrees, according to the Brazilian Navy.
Stellar Banner after her grounding, February 2020 (IBAMA)
Salvors successfully refloated the Stellar Banner on June 3 and towed her to deeper water. After the refloat, the ship’s class society oversaw structural inspections with assistance from commercial divers and an ROV team. The vessel was declared a total loss, and Polaris proposed to dispose of her by scuttling.
According to the Brazilian Navy, the portion of the cargo that remains on board is not a threat to the environment. Remaining oil and oily residue will be removed prior to the operation. The AHTS Bear, the MPSV Normand Installer, a Brazilian Navy patrol vessel and an oil spill response vessel will remain on scene during the process.