Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

Explosion on burning oil tanker forces suspension of rescue efforts

Explosion on burning oil tanker forces suspension of rescue efforts

All 21 crew members aboard the Chinese ship were rescued.

The tanker Sanchi was carrying nearly 1 million barrels of condensate, an ultra-light, highly flammable crude oil, to South Korea.

The Panama-registered tanker, Sanchi, was carrying 136,000 tons - around 1 million barrels - of oil from Iran to South Korea when it collided with the Hong Kong-registered CF Crystal freighter in the East China Sea on Saturday evening.

He said that Chinese authorities turned down an offer from the Japanese Coast Guard to help, saying it would ask for help when needed.

Experts had warned that a spill of the Panamanian-flagged 274-metre tanker's cargo could spell environmental catastrophe as authorities said the ship could explode or sink.

The explosion on the Sanchi's bow was the latest setback in the multinational effort to extinguish the blaze and forced rescue vessels to move to a safe distance, China's Ministry of Transport said.

Photos on the Ministry of Transportation's microblog showed thick black smoke pouring out of the ship on Thursday morning.

But rescue efforts were still being hampered by "terrible" weather conditions and toxic gases from the burning oil which "pose a great danger to rescuers", the ministry said in a statement.

A total of 32 crew members, including 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, were on board the oil tanker at the time of the collision.

An Iranian crude oil tanker, Sanchi, collided with Chinese freighter CF Crystal during the weekend.

"It was clear that the Chinese are not cooperating enough", IMMS Vice President Saman Rezaie told AFP.

"The problem is the ship's heavy bunker fuel", said Chauncey Naylor, a US -based director of emergency response and training at Tyco Corp's oil-fire specialists Williams Fire & Hazard Control, which is not involved in the clean-up.

The oil from the tanker is condensate oil that is expected to quickly evaporate upon hitting the water, with "very little residue on the water's surface", the ministry said.

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