Iranian oil tanker ablaze, 32 missing after collision off China
A tanker carrying oil from Iran to South Korea was ablaze and spilling its cargo off eastern China on Jan. 7 after a collision with a cargo ship which left 32 tanker crew members missing.
The vessel, carrying 136,000 tons of oil condensate, caught fire after the collision the night of Jan. q7and its crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis were missing, China’s transport ministry said.
The other vessel had been damaged but “without jeopardizing the safety of the ship” and all its 21 Chinese crew had been rescued, it added in a statement.
Footage from state television channel CCTV showed the ship in the grip of an intense fire, enveloped in clouds of black smoke.
The Panamanian-flagged 274-meter tanker Sanchi was operated by Iran’s Glory Shipping and heading to South Korea with its cargo, the ministry said.
The accident happened 160 nautical miles east of Shanghai.
The second vessel involved was a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship, the CF Crystal, carrying 64,000 tons of grain.
“The Sanchi is still floating and continues to burn, there is oil on the sea surface; search and rescue operations are rushing and underway,” the ministry said in a statement.
The foreign ministry said China had deployed specialized “cleaning ships” to the scene to minimize environmental damage.
The cause of the collision was under investigation, it added. Chinese maritime authorities have sent eight ships and South Korea has sent a plane and a 3,000-ton coastguard ship.
“Our ship and plane have arrived at the site and are working closely with Chinese maritime authorities,” a coastguard official said.
Iran’s Petroleum Ministry said the tanker belongs to the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) and was delivering its cargo to South Korea’s Hanwha Total.
The ship and its cargo were insured, a statement said.It was the second accident in less than two years involving a tanker owned by the NITC.
In August 2016 an Iranian supertanker and a container ship collided in the Singapore Strait, causing damage to both vessels but no injuries or pollution.
The collision was the latest fatal maritime accident to hit East Asia in recent years.