Posted on January 10, 2018 by Ashleigh Cowie

Rescue teams searching for the missing crew on a burning oil tanker have had to retreat following an explosion on the ship.

China’s Transport Ministry said rescue crews were dousing the ship with foam in an attempt to stop the fire when the explosion occurred.

The Iranian oil tanker was on its way to South Korea late on Saturday when it was struck by a cargo ship off in the East China Sea.

The vessel was carrying condensate, a highly flammable ultra-light crude.

Dozens of boats from China and South Korea have been battling strong winds, high waves and poisonous fumes in an attempt to rescue the 31 missing crew members. They have been searching the 900-square-nautical-mile (3,100-square-kilometre) area amid concerns that the oil tanker may explode.

The US Navy and Iran’s Navy have both joined the efforts.

The tanker Sanchi (IMO:9356608), run by Iran’s top oil shipping operator, National Iranian Tanker Co, collided on Saturday with the CF Crystal (IMO:9497050), carrying grain from the United States, about 160 nautical miles (300 km) off China’s coast near Shanghai.

There were concerns that this could be the biggest oil disaster of this kind since 1991. The Chinese government have since said it had not found a “large-scale” oil leak, and the condensate was burning off or evaporating so quickly that it would leave little residue – less than 1 percent – within five hours of a spill.

Iranian officials said there was still a chance of finding survivors among the 31 remaining crew, who are all Iranian nationals except for two Bangladeshi citizens. The body of a crew member was found on Monday in the water near the oil tanker.

“If the crew have been able to reach (…) some place like the engine room, then the chances of their rescue are high,” said Hassan Qashqavi, a senior Iranian foreign ministry official, according to ISNA

“But if, God forbid, they have been caught up in explosions because of flames inside the ship, then the chance of their rescue is small.”


Authorities have raised concerns the ship is increasingly vulnerable to breaking up. As the blaze continues this will become more likely.

South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries warned on Wednesday the tanker could burn for up to one month, potentially expelling the tanker’s bunker fuel, or the heavy fuel oil that powers a ship’s engines and contaminating the waters.

“We believe flames would last for two weeks or a month considering previous cases of oil tank accidents,” said Park Sung-dong, an official at the ministry.”

At this point officials are unsure of the damage caused.

For more from the initial story see earlier developments here

Posted in Operations , Safety

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