The ore carrier Stellar Banner has been sunk off the coast of Brazil. It is the largest ship ever to which this has been done on purpose.
The South Korean owner, Polaris Shipping, decided not to demolish or repair the wreck of the 340 metres long and 55 metres wide mastodon, because it was so badly damaged that it was declared a total loss. It ran aground on 24 February, after it had suffered heavy bow damage shortly after leaving the Ponta da Madeira Maritime Terminal of ore giant Vale.
Salvors, headed by Smit Salvage, have since extracted 145,000 tonnes of iron ore from the very large ore carrier in order to get it afloat again. The wreckage was then towed to deeper water with the intention of scuttling it there. The Brazilian navy, which gave permission for the remarkable operation, did not disclose the water depth at the site.
The video shows how the only four-year-old Stellar Banner ingloriously perishes in huge fountains of spraying red iron ore dust. During its demise, the chimney broke off and drifted around for a while in a swirling sea.
Doing the math
The deliberate sinking of large ships seldom happens, because even if a wreck is declared a total loss, the hull still represents a demolition value of several millions. Apparently, Polaris has calculated that the value of the ship and the ore on board, which is still close to 150,000 tonnes, does not outweigh the cost of transporting the Stellar Banner to a demolition site.
In times of war, it does happen that naval ships are deliberately sunk to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. One of the most famous examples is the sinking of most of the French naval fleet near Toulon in 1942, to prevent the Germans from seizing them.
This article first appeared in Dutch on Nieuwsblad Transport, a publication of SWZ|Maritime’s publishing partner Promedia.
Picture (top): YouTube video still from the video above by Gabrie Jorge.