A desperate search is underway for the 22 crew members of the South Korean cargo ship that had apparently sunk in the Atlantic Ocean off Uruguay over the weekend.
Two Filipino crew members were rescued after finding them floating in a life raft on Saturday, but rescuers later said they are losing hope of finding alive other crew members of Marshall Islands-flagged Very Large Ore Carrier (VLOC), Stellar Daisy.
Among the missing crew members, eight are South Korean nationals and 14 are Filipinos. Search operations could only find out fuel, debris, and empty lifeboats in the area so far.
Before losing contact about 2,500 kilometers off Uruguay, one of the crew members of the vessel had sent a text message on Friday to the operator saying the 312m-long freighter was taking on water, the navy said.
However, the attempts reportedly failed when the company tried to contact the vessel.
Immediately after the distress signal, the Uruguayan navy alerted merchant ships in the area and asked them to search for the vessel. One of the ships detected an oil sheen and debris in the area, indicating that the vessel probably had sunk some 2,000 nautical miles off the port city of Montevideo, the navy added.
Uruguayan navy and Brazilian authorities later launched search-and-rescue operation in the area of the signal.
At least four commercial vessels in the area were asked to assist the search effort and, in addition, the Brazilian air force had sent a plane from Rio de Janeiro to be part of the rescue operation.
The Brazilian Air Force’s C-130 aircraft reportedly searched inside a 500-kilometer radius area, including the vessel’s last contacted area and the points where the two crew members were rescued. However, unfortunately, officials said they were only able to find fuel and debris that are believed to have come from the ship.
The Uruguayan navy spokesman Gaston Jaunsolo was earlier quoted by news agency Reuters as saying that the chances of finding the missing crew is becoming less as more hours pass.
Stellar Daisy, owned and operated by South Korea’s Polaris Shipping, was en route from Brazil to China transporting 260,000 tonnes of iron ore when it met with the accident.
Reports earlier said the vessel sunk after losing stability. Meanwhile, latest reports suggested the vessel may have capsized without warning due to a chemical change in its cargo.
Media reports indicted the possibilities of the liquefaction of iron and nickel ore during prolonged transport, resulting in bumping and shaking.
However, citing rescued crewmen, reports said the seamen spotted several cracks in the ship after the vessel began listing about 15 degrees. The vessel reportedly sunk quickly after breaking apart.
Officials said the exact cause of the accident was not known. It was not a complicated day for navigation, Jaunsolo told reporters.
Built in 1993, the 266,141 DWT Stellar Daisy features an overall length and extreme breadth of 321.95m and 58m, respectively.
The vessel was originally constructed as a very large crude carrier, but was reportedly converted to an ore carrier during the dry-bulk shipping boom.
References: bbc.com, foxnews.com, huffingtonpost.com