Oil tanker crew of 32 missing after collision off China coast

Iranian vessel ‘completely lost to fire’ after striking freighter 260km from China

The Panamanian-registered tanker ‘Sanchi’ on fire after a collision with a cargo ship 260km off China’s eastern coast. Photograph: AFP/Korea Coast Guard

The Panamanian-registered tanker ‘Sanchi’ on fire after a collision with a cargo ship 260km off China’s eastern coast. Photograph: AFP/Korea Coast Guard

 

An Iranian oil tanker has collided with a bulk freighter and caught fire off China’s eastern coast, leaving its crew of 32 missing.

The missing, 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, are all from the tanker Sanchi, which spilled oil and was floating while still burning early on Sunday.

Chinese maritime authorities sent police vessels and three cleaning ships to the scene, while the South Korean coast guard also sent a ship and an aircraft to aid the search effort.

The Panama-registered tanker was sailing from Iran to South Korea when it collided with the Hong Kong-registered freighter CF Crystal 260km from shore late on Saturday, the Ministry of Transport said.

The 21 members of the Crystal’s crew, all Chinese nationals, were rescued, the ministry said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the collision.

The ship has operated under five different names in the time since it was built in 2008, according the UN-run International Maritime Organisation.

The IMO listed its registered owner as Hong Kong-based Bright Shipping Ltd, care of the National Iranian Tanker Co, a publicly traded company based in Tehran.

The National Iranian Tanker Co describes itself as operating the largest tanker fleet in the Middle East.

An official in Iran’s oil ministry said the tanker was owned by the National Iranian Tanker Co, and had been rented by a South Korean company, Hanwha Total Co. He said the tanker was on its way to South Korea.

Hanwha Total is a 50-50 partnership between the Seoul-based Hanwha Group and the French oil giant Total.

It is the second collision for a ship from the National Iranian Tanker Co in less than 18 months.

In August 2016, one of its tankers collided with a Swiss container ship in the Singapore Strait, damaging both ships but causing no injuries or oil spill. –AP