Burning Oil Tanker Sanchi Sinks off China

The ill-fated Iranian tanker Sanchi sank on January 14, after burning for over a week following a collision in the East China Sea.

The tanker, which was carrying 136,000 tons of crude oil, suffered another explosion around 12 o’clock and subsequently sank some 151 nautical miles southeast of the incident in the afternoon hours, China’s Ministry of Transport cited Shanghai Maritime Search and Rescue Center.

The officials informed that the flames reached 800 to 1,000 meters high at the time, while oil spills from the ship continued burning in the area where the ship went down.

On January 13, a Shanghai salvage team, which boarded the tanker, managed to find and recover two bodies from the ship. The team also recovered Sanchi’s voyage data recorder before being forced to leave the ship due to thick toxic smoke on board.

Earlier search and rescue efforts resulted in one body being recovered on Monday.

Relevant authorities are undertaking search and rescue operations in an effort to locate potential survivors of the ship’s 30 Iranian and two Bangladeshi crew members.

China’s Ministry of Transport earlier said that the tanker drifted about 65 nautical miles south from the spot where it collided with the Hong Kong bulk carrier CF Crystal on January 6.

Strong winds pushed the stricken tanker away from the Chinese coast into Japan’s exclusive economic zone, some 300 km northwest of Sokkozaki on the island of Amami Oshima.

Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) has asked the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for assistance and called on China’s neighbours, namely Japan and South Korea, to deploy their rescue and firefighting assets to the scene.

Before the tanker sank, Mohammad Rastad, spokesman of the Iranian rescue team dispatched to Shanghai, told Iran’s state news agency that, “despite our efforts, it has not been possible to extinguish the fire and recover the bodies due to repeated explosions and gas leaks.”

He added that information gathered from CF Crystal’s crew suggested that there were no survivors on board the tanker.

China’s state news agency Xinhua informed that there was an oil spill where the vessel sank and that the National Oceanic Bureau is monitoring the situation closely.

World Maritime News Staff