Iranian Oil Tanker Drifts Into Japanese Waters As Fires Rage On

Iranian Oil Tanker Drifts Into Japanese Waters As Fires Rage On

The 164,154 dwt Sanchi, carrying 136,000 mt or 960,000 barrels of South Pars condensate, caught fire late Saturday after a collision with another vessel in the East China Sea.

The entire crew of the Panamanian-registered vessel — 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis — went missing after its collision with the Chinese freighter CF Crystal.

The body of one Iranian crew member has already been found, while 21 Chinese nationals were successfully rescued from the bulk carrier. "At 1335 hours, due to the deflagration (combustion) of the Sanchi ferry, on-site vessels suspended fire fighting operations and evacuated to a safe distance".

The tanker Sanchi (IMO:9356608), owned by Iran's top oil shipping operator National IranianTanker Co, was carrying nearly 1 million barrels of condensate, an ultra-light, highly flammable crude oil, to South Korea.

Lashing winds, high waves and toxic gases are hindering dozens of rescue boats struggling to locate missing sailors from a stricken oil tanker in the East China Sea and to extinguish a fire that has burned for the past three days on the ship.

China's state-run media reported that the fire continued to burn on Thursday, and that Chinese maritime authorities have deployed 12 ships to extinguish it and search for 32 crewmembers listed as missing.

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It collided with the freighter CF Crystal (IMO:9497050) that was carrying grain from the United States about 160 nautical miles (184 km) off China's coast near Shanghai.

The tanker has also now drifted away from the Chinese coast and into Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Japan's coast guard said.

The Coast Guard has sent ships and aircraft to monitor the situation.

Search and firefighting efforts resumed Thursday after an onboard explosion rocked the tanker Wednesday. "In the longer term, it is expected that there will be a full investigation into this incident and that the results and findings will be brought to IMO so that we can do whatever may be necessary to reduce the chances of such an incident happening again". A chartering manager at an Asian refiner said: "Now charterers will pay much more attention on the safety of the vessels". Prior to the Sanchi incident, NITC had a fleet of 65 tankers.

According to the VesselsValue database, Sanchi is owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company and CF Crystal is owned by the Changhong Group HK Ltd.

An official from South Korea's Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries was quoted in a Reuters report as saying the fire could last for weeks.

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