Prosecutor to appeal Stellar Daisy decision, families vow to fight on

The families of the victims of the sinking of VLOC Stellar Daisy in March 2017 have said that they will continue to “fight for justice” after fines of just over $12,000 were imposed on the owner

The Busan District Prosecutors’ Office also said that it would appeal the decision.

Although Stellar Daisy’s owner was found guilty late last week for failing to report the VLOC’s defects, prosecutors said that they would be looking for tougher penalties for those involved in the casualty.

The Polaris Shipping-owned VLOC sank in the south Atlantic, some distance from Uruguay, with the loss of 22 lives.

Korean prosecutors had demanded four years  imprisonment for Polaris CEO Kim Wan-Jung for failing to report the defects of the ship to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries. The law in South Korea had been updated in the wake of the sinking of ferry Sewol six years ago, with the loss of 326 lives.

Last week’s judgement ruled that Kim was guilty of not reporting the vessel defects, but not guilty in terms of failing to keeping the ship well maintained. He was sentenced to a year’s probation. The shipping line was fined KRW15m ($12,426).

Only two sailors were rescued from 24 crew members (two Filipinos out of eight Korean and 16 Filipinos on board). The Republic of the Marshall Islands, under which the South Korean-owned vessel was flagged, 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.

The Korean prosecutors had called for four years  imprisonment for the CEO for not reporting the defects of the ship to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

After the trial, Stellar Daisy families held a press conference, welcoming the guilty verdict and noting the positive impact of the 2015 revision of the Ship Safety Law. However, they expressed their disappointment at the light sentence.

Last year the South Korean government commissioned US-based exploration company Ocean Infinity to find and retrieve the vessel’s VDR. However, this did not include the voices of crew members during the last moments before the vessel sank. One of the data chips was cracked. Only 7% of the data has been released from the other chip.

The families repeated their call for another search of the wreckage in the hope of gathering more information about the cause of the sinking, as well as recovering the human remains that were found there on the previous mission.

Polaris has recently been offloading its oldest VLOCs for scrap and ordering a new batch of bulkers, primarily for long term charter with Brazilian miner Vale.