A tanker carrying Iranian oil and run by the country’s top oil shipping operator was involved in a collision with a Chinese bulk ship, CF Crystal, leaving it ablaze and spewing cargo into the East China Sea on Sunday. It’s 32 crew members are missing said the Chinese government.
The Panama-registered tanker, named Sanchi, was sailing from Iran to South Korea, carrying 136,000 tones of condensate, an ultra-light crude. That is equivalent to just under 1 million barrels with a value of around $60 million. The Chinese Ministry of Transport released a statement stating that the Sanchi had collided with the CF Crystal about 160 nautical miles off the coast near Shanghai on Saturday evening. “Sanchi is floating and burning as of now,” said the ministry. “There is an oil slick and we are pushing forward with rescue efforts.” The ministry has not given any details on how big the oil slick was. State media CCTV showed the tanker ablaze and billowing plumes of thick dark smoke. It had sent eight ships for the search and rescue, with three of them set to take part in the clean-up operation, to the site on Sunday, it added.
South Korea also sent a ship and a helicopter to help. A Korean Coast Guard official confirmed the tanker was still raging at 1pm (0500 UTC). He declined to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to the media. The tanker’s 32 crew members comprised of 30 Iranian crew members and 2 Bangladeshi crew members.
“There is a wide perimeter of flames around the vessel because of the spillage and search and rescue efforts are being carried out with difficulty,” said Mohammad Rastad, head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organisation, talking to Iranian television. “Unfortunately, up to this moment, there is no news of the crew,” he said.
CF Crystal’s 21 crew members, all Chinese nationals, were rescued and the ship suffered “non-critical” damage, China’s transport ministry said.
The incident marked the first major maritime incident involving an Iranian tanker since the lifting of international sanctions on Iran in January 2016.
There was a collision involving an NITC-operated supertanker in the Singapore Strait in August 2016, but there was no loss of life or pollution.
Tracking history shows Sanchi was built in 2008 and it has had five different names since then. It’s registered owner is Bright Shipping. It was managed by the National Iranian Tanker Co (NITC). It was due to arrive in Daesan in South Korea from Kharg Island in Iran on Sunday.
Sanchi collided with CF Crystal, registered in Hong Kong, which was carrying 64,000 tonnes of grain from the United States to China’s southern province of Guangdong.
CF Crystal, which was built in 2011, was due to arrive in China on Jan 10 according to tracking history available online.