Two crew from the 1993-built 266,000dwt Stellar Daisy were found drifting in a life raft while 22 are unaccounted for after the vessel went missing 2,000 nm from Uruguay, according to shipowner and operator Polaris Shipping.

The ore carrier sent a distress call before noon on Friday saying it was taking on water. South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that the crew sent a text message to owners Polaris Shipping saying that the ship was sinking.

The Uruguay authorities believe the vessel sank. There "strong smell of fuel" and spotted debris, "an indication that the damaged ship had sunk," a statement from the navy said, according to reports.

The Marshall Islands-flagged VLOC had crew of 16 Filipinos and eight Koreans.