Stella Banner surrounded by a 200 metre barrier to contain any oil spills

Grounded VLOC Stellar Banner (IMO 9726803) has been surrounded by a 200-metre barrier constructed of buoys in order to prevent any environmental pollution should there be a spill from the fuel tanks of the laden ore carrier.

Vessel operator Polaris Shipping said that the oil sheen seen around the stricken four-year-old ship had disappeared, but that the anti-pollution measures remained in place.

The VLOC came to rest on a sandbar off the coast of Sao Luís (Maranhao), having hit an unidentified object while beginning a journey from Brazil to China, She was loaded with a cargo of about 290,000 tons of iron ore.

Salvor Ardent Global has begun a debunkering plan to remove the estimated 4,000 tons of fuel on the ship. Although two breaches in the hull have been identified by local authorities toward the front of the ship, Polaris said that the ship’s structure remained sound, despite the constant buffeting by the waves, and that the fuel tanks were towards the rear of the vessel. “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”, the company said.

Ardent Global is considering the possibility of towing the ship back to her departure port, where the cargo would be unloaded. Divers have been examining the hull.

Two Vale-contracted oil recovery vessels were deployed to the Stellar Banner on February 29th, with the support of Brazil’s Petrobras. They were requested on a preventative basis and were part of the action plan to contain any oil leakage.

The fuel tanks at the stern were reported as intact.

In Maranhão at a meeting on February 29th at a meeting of the Navy with Ibama and companies involved in the salvage a strategy was established to empty part of the tanks. On March 2nd offshore ships Alegria and C-Atlas as well as the tugs Renaud, SMIT Caninde and SMIT Charrua were on site.

The oil stains that had been sighted around the ship after the grounding, which have since disappeared, apparently came from lubricant oil residues on deck, which were washed into the sea by the waves.

Stellar Banner ran aground on February 24th while on its way out of the access channel of Ponta da Madeira maritime terminal, heading to Qingdao, China. The 20 crew members were evacuated from the vessel as a precaution.

Petrobras was also reported to have requested that salvage specialists be hired in addition to Ardent Global, which is contracted to Polaris Shipping, to remove the ship’s fuel oil and prevent potential pollution.