Tankers Collide, 32 Missing, Fire, Bad Weather, Oil Spillage Hinder Rescue
A tanker has collided with a bulk carrier in the East China Sea, leaving the entire tanker crew of 32 missing.
The Iranian tanker, Sanchi, is ablaze and leaking oil after colliding with the Hong Kong-registered vessel CF Crystal. Rescue efforts are being hampered by fire in and around the tanker and by bad weather. The tanker was carrying 136,000 tons (nearly one million barrels) of condensate and headed for South Korea.
The incident occurred late on Saturday about 160 nautical miles off the coast near Shanghai and the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta.
The Chinese and South Korean Coast Guard’s are responding.
“Sanchi is floating and burning,” said China’s ministry of transport in a statement. “There is an oil slick and we are pushing forward with rescue efforts.”
The tanker crew consists of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis. CF Crystal’s 21 Chinese crew members were rescued and the ship suffered “non-critical” damage, the ministry reports. The vessel was carrying grain from the U.S. to Guangdong.
Reports indicate that the Panama-flagged Sanchi is managed by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), owned by Bright Shipping and chartered by Hanwha Total Petrochemical. Norwegian ship insurer Skuld has confirmed it was the lead hull insurer for the tanker and the protection and indemnity (P&I) insurer for CF Crystal.
This is the first major accident involving an Iranian oil tanker since international sanctions were lifted in January 2016.
Major oil tanker spills since 1970 (ITOPF database):
1979: Atlantic Empress in the Caribbean – 287,000 tons
1983: Castillo de Bellver off South Africa – 252,000 tons
1989: Exxon Valdez, Alaska – 37,000 tons
1989: Khark 5 off Morocco – 70,000 tons
1991: ABT Summer off Angola – 260,000 tons
1996: Sea Empress off Wales, United Kingdom – 72,000 tons
1999: Erika off France – 20,000 tons
2002: Prestige off Spain – 63,000 tons
2007: Hebei Spirit off South Korea – 11,000 tons