China says “no large-scale” oil leak found after Iran tanker collision
China says it has detected “no large-scale oil spills” after an Iranian oil tanker collided with a cargo ship off its coast.
Sanchi, the tanker run by Iran’s top oil shipping operator National Iranian Tanker Co., burst into flames on Saturday evening after colliding with CF Crystal, a Hong Kong-registered cargo ship, about 160 nautical miles off China’s coast near Shanghai.
Search operation is still underway amid strong winds, high waves and poisonous fumes to find those missing. So far, the body of one of the 32 missing crew members — 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis — has been recovered. All 21 Chinese crew members of Crystal were rescued.
A spokesman for National Iranian Tanker Co. said there is still hope of finding survivors as rescue efforts continue.
Mohsen Bahrami explained that since the vessel’s engine room is not directly affected by the fire and is about 14 meters underwater, there is still the possibility of finding the tanker’s crew members alive.
Bahrami also noted that fresh operations to extinguish the flames had started on Wednesday morning, with Chinese ships spraying foam onto the burning tanker. He added that the size of fire has been significantly reduced, expressing hope that a heliborne rescue operation will begin as soon as the blaze has been controlled.
Experts earlier warned that a spill of the tanker’s cargo could spell an environmental catastrophe.
However, China’s Transport Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that as of 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, “No large-scale oil spills were found on the sea surface” where the search is being conducted around the stricken tanker.
The statement said the tanker’s cargo is condensate oil that evaporates quickly upon hitting the water and would leave “very little residue on the water’s surface” — less than one percent — within five hours after a leak.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said on Wednesday that the stricken tanker, which had been carrying 136,000 tonnes of condensate to the Asian country, could burn for as long as one month.
“We believe flames would last for two weeks or a month considering previous cases of oil tank accidents,” Park Sung-dong, an official at the ministry, said.
Last year, another oil tanker owned by the National Iranian Tanker Co. collided with a Swiss container ship in the Singapore Strait, damaging both ships, but causing no injuries or oil spill.