Iranian oil tanker fire in East China Sea

Iranian oil tanker Sanchi (IMO 9356608) caught fire in the East China Sea on the 6th January after colliding with Hong Kong-flagged Chinese cargo vessel CF Crystal (IMO 9497050) about 160 nautical miles off the coast of Shanghai, leaving the tanker’s 32 crew – 30 Iranian nationals and two Bangladeshis – missing.


The 21 Chinese nationals who made up the crew of 2011-built, 41,073 gt CF Crystal were all rescued and the vessel itself suffered “non-critical” damage, according to the Chinese transport ministry. It had been carrying 64,000 tonnes of grain from the US to the Chinese province of Guangdong, the government said.


2008-built, Panama-registered Sanchi has 85,462 gt and is owned by Bright Shipping Ltd of Tehran, Iran. It is managed by Iran’s National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC). She was en route from Assaluyeh in Iran, which she left on the 16th December, for Daesan in South Korea, where she was due to arrive on the 7th January.


Sanchi was carrying about one million barrels (136,000 tonnes) of condensate, an ultra-light crude. Iranian oil ministry spokesman Kasra Nouri told Iranian state television that Sanchi had “valid foreign insurance”. It had been leased by Hanwha Total Petrochemical Company Ltd.


Four rescue ships and three cleaning boats arrived by 09:00 local time on the 7th January. South Korea sent a ship and a helicopter to assist. Search-and-Rescue efforts were hampered by spillages and fierce fires and poisonous gases that have engulfed the tanker and surrounding waters and the risk of explosion.


As a 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 which gushed out of the Valdez, much of the light, gassy condensate from the Sanchi may have evaporated or burned immediately, an official said. A Hanwha Total spokesman 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 US$60 million.


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


Condensate, al light oil produced along with natural gas, is mainly produced in Iran at the South Pars offshore field.


Sanchi is entered with Steamship Underwriting (Smuab), Eastern Syndicate, on behalf of Bright Shipping Ltd.


CF Crystal, owned by Changong Group HK Ltd care of manager Shanghai CP International Ship Management of Shanghai, China, is entered with Skuld on behalf of Changfeng Shipping Holdings Lim.