Oil tanker burning off China's coast at risk of exploding

In this image from video run by China's CCTV shows the Panama-registered tanker "Sanchi" is seen ablaze after a collision with a Hong Kong-registered freighter off China's eastern coast, Monday, Jan. 8, 2017. The U.S. Navy has joined the search for 32 crew members missing from the oil tanker that caught fire after colliding with a bulk freighter off China's east coast. (CCTV via AP Video)
In this image from video run by China's CCTV shows the Panama-registered tanker "Sanchi" is seen ablaze after a collision with a Hong Kong-registered freighter off China's eastern coast, Monday, Jan. 8, 2017. The U.S. Navy has joined the search for 32 crew members missing from the oil tanker that caught fire after colliding with a bulk freighter off China's east coast. (CCTV via AP Video)
In this image made from video run by China's CCTV, a rescue ship sprays water to put out a blaze at the Panama-registered tanker "Sanchi" after a collision with a Hong Kong-registered freighter off China's eastern coast, Monday, Jan. 8, 2017. The U.S. Navy has joined the search for 32 crew members missing from the oil tanker that caught fire after colliding with a bulk freighter off China's east coast. (CCTV via AP Video)
In this photo provided by Korea Coast Guard, the Panama-registered tanker "Sanchi" is seen ablaze after a collision with a Hong Kong-registered freighter off China's eastern coast Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018. The oil tanker collided with a bulk freighter and caught fire off China's eastern coast, leaving its entire crew of 32 missing, most of them Iranians, authorities said. (Korea Coast Guard via AP)
In this image made from video run by China's CCTV, a rescue ship sprays water to put out a blaze at the Panama-registered tanker "Sanchi" after a collision with a Hong Kong-registered freighter off China's eastern coast, Monday, Jan. 8, 2017. The U.S. Navy has joined the search for 32 crew members missing from the oil tanker that caught fire after colliding with a bulk freighter off China's east coast. (CCTV via AP Video)

BEIJING — An oil tanker that caught fire after colliding with a freighter off China's east coast is at risk of exploding and sinking, Chinese state media reported Monday, as authorities from three countries struggled to find its 32 missing crew members and contain oil spewing from the blazing wreck.

State broadcaster China Central Television, citing Chinese officials, said none of the 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis who have been missing since the collision late Saturday had been found as of 8 a.m. Monday. Search and cleanup efforts have been hampered by fierce fires and poisonous gases that have engulfed the tanker and surrounding waters, CCTV reported.

The Panama-registered tanker Sanchi was sailing from Iran to South Korea when it collided with the Hong Kong-registered freighter CF Crystal in the East China Sea, 257 kilometers (160 miles) off the coast of Shanghai, China's Ministry of Transport said.

China, South Korea and the U.S. have sent ships and planes to search for the Sanchi's crew, all of whom remain missing. The U.S. Navy, which sent a P-8A aircraft from Okinawa, Japan, to aid the search, said late Sunday that none of the missing crew had been found.

All 21 crew members of the Crystal, which was carrying grain from the United States to China, were rescued, the Chinese ministry said. The Crystal's crew members were all Chinese nationals.

It wasn't immediately clear what caused the collision.

Kwon Yong-deok, a Korea Coast Guard official, said thick black smoke was still billowing from the ship on Monday afternoon and bad weather was worsening visibility at the scene.

The Sanchi was carrying 136,000 metric tons (150,000 tons, or nearly 1 million barrels) of condensate, a type of ultra-light oil, according to Chinese authorities, who have dispatched three ships to clean the spill.

By comparison, the Exxon Valdez was carrying 1.26 million barrels of crude oil when it spilled 260,000 barrels into Prince William Sound off Alaska in 1989, badly damaging local ecology and the area's fishing-based economy.

But the size of the oil slick from the Sanchi — and the scale of the environmental toll — may be smaller. Unlike the thick crude that gushed out of the Valdez, much of the light, gassy condensate from the Sanchi may have evaporated or burned immediately, Kwon said.

The Sanchi's own fuel that leaked during the collision will be more difficult to clean, officials said.

South Korean petrochemical company Hanwha Total Co., a 50-50 partnership between the Seoul-based Hanwha Group and French oil giant Total, said in an email to the AP it had contracted the Sanchi to import Iranian condensate to South Korea.

A Hanwha Total spokesman, who asked not to be named citing office policies, said there is "little possibility" that condensate would leave traces in the ocean after it burned. He added the losses would be covered by an insurance company. The Sanchi's cargo was estimated to be worth more than $60 million.

The tanker has operated under five different names since it was built in 2008, according the U.N.-run International Maritime Organization. The IMO listed its registered owner as Hong Kong-based Bright Shipping Ltd., on behalf of the National Iranian Tanker Co., a publicly traded company based in Tehran. The National Iranian Tanker Co. describes itself as operating the largest tanker fleet in the Middle East.

An official in Iran's Oil Ministry, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, said the tanker was owned by the National Iranian Tanker Co. and confirmed that 30 of the tanker's 32 crew members were Iranians.

"We have no information on their fate," he said Sunday. "We cannot say all of them have died, because rescue teams are there and providing services."

It's the second collision for a ship from the National Iranian Tanker Co. in less than a year and a half. In August 2016, one of its tankers collided with a Swiss container ship in the Singapore Strait, damaging both ships but causing no injuries or oil spill.

___

Associated Press writers Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Youkyung Lee in Seoul contributed to this report.

Must Read

US-born panda Bao Bao lands in China after leaving DC zoo

Feb 23, 2017

An American-born panda on Thursday started settling into her new home in southwest China where she...

China says Dalai Lama border visit would damage India ties

Mar 4, 2017

China is warning of "severe damage" to relations with India if the Dalai Lama proceeds with a visit...

China says rebuilding major western Buddhist learning center

Mar 14, 2017

China says it is rebuilding a major center of Tibetan Buddhist learning in the country's west,...

China affirms climate pledge after Trump rolls back rules

Mar 29, 2017

China's government says it will stick to its promises to curb carbon emissions after President...

China blasts India over Dalai Lama visit to disputed area

Apr 5, 2017

China is criticizing India for allowing the Dalai Lama to visit a disputed border region, saying it...

People also read these

Chinese Pres. Xi promotes 2022 Winter Olympics with visit

Jan 24, 2017

Chinese President Xi Jinping has stressed the need for sustainability and post-event planning on a...

China praises Trump's letter to Xi, belated well-wishes

Feb 9, 2017

China has praised U.S. President Donald Trump for expressing a desire for a "constructive...

China closes live poultry markets amid deadly flu outbreak

Feb 17, 2017

China is ordering the closure of live poultry markets in its south-central regions where the worst...

China's coal consumption falls for 3rd year in a row

Feb 28, 2017

China has released data showing that the country's consumption of coal fell in 2016 for a third...

China premier pledges: 'We will make our skies blue again'

Mar 5, 2017

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has pledged to make the country's skies blue again and "work faster" to...

AseanCoverage is a next-gen news site focusing exclusively on online news from South East Asia.

Contact us: sales@aseancoverage.com