32 missing after tanker collision
BEIJING — An Iranian oil tanker collided with a bulk freighter and caught fire off China’s east coast, leaving the tanker’s entire crew of 32 missing and causing it to spill oil into the sea, authorities said Sunday.
Chinese authorities dispatched police vessels and three cleaning ships to the scene after the collision, which happened late Saturday. The South Korean coast guard also sent a ship and a plane to help search for the missing crew members — 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis.
The Panama-registered tanker Sanchi was sailing from Iran to South Korea when it collided with the Hong Kong-registered freighter CF Crystal in the East China Sea, 160 miles off the coast of Shanghai, China’s Ministry of Transport said.
All 21 crew members of the Crystal, which was carrying grain from the United States, were rescued, the ministry said. The Crystal’s crew members were all Chinese nationals.
It wasn’t clear what caused the collision.
State-run China Central Television reported Sunday evening that the tanker was still floating and burning, and that oil was visible in the water.
It was not clear, however, whether the tanker was still spilling oil. The size of the oil slick caused by the accident also was not known.
Earlier Sunday, Chinese state media carried pictures of the tanker on fire with large plumes of smoke.
The Sanchi was carrying 150,000 tons, or nearly 1 million barrels of condensate, a type of ultra-light oil, according to Chinese authorities.
By 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.
The Sanchi has operated under five different names since it was built in 2008, the U.N.-run International Maritime Organization said.