Oil tanker burning off China’s coast at risk of exploding

An oil tanker that caught fire after a collision with a freighter off China’s east coast on the weekend is at risk of exploding and sinking.

One body has been discovered aboard the vessel and 31 other crew members are missing.

China’s Ministry of Transport said that the Panama-registered tanker Sanchi was sailing from Iran to South Korea when the collision with the Hong Kong-registered freighter CF Crystal in the East China Sea occurred 257 kilometres off the coast of Shanghai.

Chinese authorities dispatched police vessels and three cleaning ships to the scene after the collision late Saturday. The South Korean coast guard also sent a ship and a plane to help search for the crew, 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis.

Mohammad Rastad, head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization, was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency on Monday that the body found on the burning tanker had been sent to Shanghai for identification.

Search and cleanup efforts have been hampered by fierce fires and poisonous gases that have consumed the tanker and surrounding waters.

All 21 crew members of the Crystal, which was carrying grain from the United States to China, were rescued, the Chinese ministry said. The Crystal’s crew members were all Chinese nationals.

The Sanchi was carrying 136,000 tonnes, or nearly a million barrels, of condensate, a type of ultra-light oil, according to Chinese authorities.