Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Iranian Oil Tanker Explodes in East China Sea as Dozens Remain Missing

Iranian Oil Tanker Explodes in East China Sea as Dozens Remain Missing

The Panama-registered tanker was carrying 136,000 tons of condensate, an ultra-light crude that is highly flammable and to South Korea, equivalent to about 1 million barrels and worth about $60 million.

The tanker, run by Iran's top oil shipping operator National Iranian Tanker, hit the CF Crystal vessel that was carrying grain from the United States last Saturday.

The Iranian oil tanker that caught fire after colliding with a Hong Kong cargo ship on Saturday in the East China Sea, could burn for as long as one month.

What is worse is, chances of the tanker exploding is increasing by the minute.

The ship, which has been burning for nearly a week since it collided with another vessel on Saturday night, was about 300 kilometers (186 miles) northwest of Amami Oshima island as of Thursday afternoon, a coast guard spokesman said.

The reports follow an explosion aboard the Sanchi, whose 32-member crew is still mostly missing.

"Vessels at the scene have to stop putting out the fire and withdraw back to (a safe distance)", China's ministry of transport said. Rescuers on Tuesday found a body believed to be a crewmember from the Iranian-operated tanker, the Sanchi, but there has been no sign of survivors.

Experts are especially anxious because the ship is carrying condensate, an ultralight version of crude oil.

Part of an oil tanker that has been ablaze for days off the coast of Shanghai exploded Wednesday, forcing rescue boats searching for 31 missing sailors to retreat, Chinese authorities said.

"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. It also is almost colourless and odourless, which makes it hard to detect.

"It is toxic and volatile when exposed to air", Zhao said.

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