Oil tanker carrying 136,000 tons of light oil ablaze off Chinese coast at risk of explosion
CCTV via Reuters TV
Smoke and fire billow from the Panama-registered tanker Sanchi, carrying 950,000 aprox. of Iranian oil, after it collided with a Chinese freighter in the East China Sea, in this still image taken from a video Sunday.
Petroleumworld 01 08 2018
An Iranian oil tanker ablaze off the Chinese coast was at risk of exploding or sinking, authorities said Monday, as they reported there was no sign of survivors 36 hours after the vessel erupted in flames.
A huge fire was still raging around the stricken ship, which had been carrying 136,000 tons of light oil, with fierce heat and thick black smoke billowing from the vessel and the surrounding sea.
The body of one crew member was found aboard the tanker, an Iranian official said.
Mohammad Rastad, head of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization, was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency that the body was sent to Shanghai for identification.
Rescuers were attempting to reach the other 29 Iranian and two Bangladeshi crew members but were being beaten back by toxic clouds, authorities said.
The Panamanian-flagged 274-meter tanker Sanchi is in danger of exploding or sinking, the ministry said.
The U.S. Navy sent a military aircraft to assist with the search, which spanned an area of about 12,350 square km but said in a statement it did not locate any of the tanker's 32 missing crew members.
The Sanchi tanker, run by Iran's top oil shipping operator, collided Saturday evening with the CF Crystal about 300 km off China's coast near Shanghai and the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta.
Chinese state media showed pictures of the tanker ablaze and billowing plumes of thick dark smoke on Sunday. China sent four rescue ships and three cleaning boats to the site, while South Korea dispatched a ship and a helicopter.
The Panama-registered tanker was sailing from Iran to South Korea carrying 136,000 metric tons of condensate, an ultra light crude. That is equivalent to just under 1 million barrels, worth about $60 million, based on global crude oil prices.
The freighter, which was carrying U.S. grain, suffered limited damage and the 21 crew members, all Chinese nationals, were rescued.
The extent of the environmental harm and size of the spill were not yet known, but based on the tanker's tonnage, it has the potential to be the worst since 1991 when 260,000 metric tons of oil leaked off the Angolan coast.
Hanwha Total Petrochemical Co. Ltd. in South Korea was due to receive the cargo and was looking at ways to replace the lost barrels, a spokesman said.
The company may use its own stock, ask Iran for another shipment or seek alternative condensate supplies from Qatar, he said. The accident was not affecting its operations on Monday, he added.
Poor weather conditions Sunday night made it hard for the rescue crews to get access to the tanker.
Trying to contain a spill of condensate, which is extremely low in density, highly toxic and much more explosive than normal crude, may also be difficult.
It is only liquid in certain pressure and temperature conditions and often evaporates into air or dilutes into water when exposed to the atmosphere or during uncontrolled spills.
When liquid, condensate is colorless and virtually odorless. Surface spills of condensate are therefore difficult to detect visually, making them hard to manage and contain.
Shanghai Maritime Bureau's navigation department said the collision did not impact traffic in and out of Shanghai, one of the world's busiest and biggest ports, or ports along the Yangtze River.