Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

32 missing after Iranian tanker collides with Chinese ship, spills oil

Dozens missing after 2 vessels collide off China coast 32 missing after Iranian tanker collides with Chinese ship, spills oil
Melinda Barton | 10 January, 2018, 12:08

Rescuers have found a body believed to be of a sailor from the Iranian oil tanker set ablaze after a collision in the East China Sea, China's Ministry of Transportation said Tuesday, as the search continued for another 31 missing from the same ship.

The Iranian-operated, Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Sanchi collided with the Hong Kong-registered CF Crystal cargo vessel with oil products equivalent to almost a million barrels aboard.

Chinese authorities dispatched three ships to clean the oil spill, while South Korea dispatched a ship and a helicopter.

If all the cargo from the Panamanian-flagged 274-metre (899-foot) tanker spills, it would be the biggest oil slick from a ship in decades and could kill marine life across a vast area, analysts have said.

Meanwhile, experts are trying to bring the fire under control and contain the leaking oil, amid concerns the ship might explode and sink. All 21 members of the Chinese freighter's crew, all of which who are Chinese nationals, have been rescued. That is equivalent to just under one million barrels, worth about US$60 million (S$80 million), based on global crude oil prices.

The crew of the Sanchi are all Iranian nationals except for two Bangladeshi citizens.

The tanker was carrying 136,000 metric tonnes (nearly one million barrels) of condensate, a type of gassy, ultra-light oil, when it collided with the Hong Kong-registered freighter CF Crystal.

It was not immediately clear what caused the collision.

"It was not known if any of the tanker's missing 32 crew members had been rescued", said the coast guard official, who declined to give his name as he was not authorised to speak to media. The Foreign Ministry said in a separate statement that the cause of the incident was under investigation.

The Panama-registered Sanchi tanker is seen ablaze in open waters, after colliding with a Chinese bulk ship, January 7, 2018.

China Central Television reported on Sunday evening that the tanker was still floating and burning, and that oil was visible in the water.

The National Iranian Tanker Co describes itself as operating the largest tanker fleet in the Middle East.

The Sanchi has operated under five different names since it was built in 2008, according the United Nations -run International Maritime Organization.

Hanwha Total Petrochemical Co Ltd in South Korea was due to receive the cargo and was looking at ways to replace the lost barrels, a spokesman said. It was not affecting operations on Monday, he said.

Last October, 13 crew on a Chinese fishing boat were killed after their vessel collided with a Hong Kong oil tanker off Japan's west coast.

It was the second accident in less than two years involving a tanker owned by the NITC.