Officials in Brazil continue to confirm that the grounded Stellar Banner remains stable as plans to remove fuel oil from the vessel progresses.
An initial oil sheen spotted in the immediate aftermath of the grounding has since dispersed and no new leaks have been identified by aircraft or on the water monitoring, officials have confirmed.
An anti-pollution team remains on scene, including two oil spill recovery vessels from Brazil’s state oil firm Petrobras.
Dive teams who have inspected the hull have confirmed the vessel remains stable on a soft sand bar.
“Despite having run aground, 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,” Stellar Banner’s owner, Polaris Shipping, said in a statement Tuesday.
The company previously attributed the initial oil sheen to “dead oil” that was on the deck of the vessel, as opposed to damaged or leaking tank.
According to Polaris, the focus of the salvage remains at oil spill mitigation and the removal of bunker fuel.
An estimated 3,500 tons of fuel oil and 140 tons of gas oil remain on board, the company said.
“Thanks to the orchestrated effort from multiple parties, including Vale, the company is now seeking to accelerate arrival of a bunker barge at the site to offload remaining fuel oil in the tanks,” Polaris said in its update.
“The detailed de-bunkering plan was submitted to the Navy for review and the operation will be completed in the coming weeks, weather permitting,” the company added.
Ardent Global has been appointed the salvor in the operation.
The 300,663 dwt Stellar Banner started listing and was intentionally grounded last Monday, February 4, 2020, shortly after departing Vale’s Ponta da Madeira Maritime Terminal where it loaded approximately 284,000 tonnes of iron ore bound for Qingdao, China. All 20 crew members were subsequently evacuated in good condition.
The MV Stellar Banner is a Very Large Ore Carrier (VLOC) built in 2016 and registered in the Marshall Islands. It is owned and operated by Polaris Shipping of South Korea and chartered to Brazilian mining giant Vale to transport iron ore from Brazil to China.
Vale said initial reports from Polaris indicate that the ship suffered damage to its bow shorty after it departed the terminal and the vessel was grounded to prevent it from sinking.
The Brazilian Navy is working with the Captain of the Port in Maranhão, Vale, the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), Ardent Global, Brazil’s Federal Police, and Brazil’s State Secretary for Environment and Resources (SEMA) on the response.
“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,” Polaris said Monday.
“Once the first phase of the plan is successfully executed, we will focus our efforts on a salvage operation for the vessel.”