Iran Navy Commandos in China to Join Oil Tanker Rescue Efforts

Iranian oil tanker in East China Sea could burn for a month, South Korean official says

Iranian oil tanker in East China Sea could burn for a month, South Korean official says

So far, only one body from the 32-person crew has been recovered.

A stricken Iranian oil tanker drifted into Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on Wednesday afternoon, a spokesman for the Japan Coast Guard said Friday, as strong winds pushed the burning ship away from the Chinese coast.

The Sanchi was carrying 136,000 metric tons (150,000 tons, or almost 1 million barrels) of condensate, a type of ultra-light oil, according to Chinese authorities.

The 21 Chinese crew members of the CF Crystal vessel, which had been carrying grain from the United States, were rescued. It is not clear whether the explosion will cause the boat to sink.

The Sanchi was sailing from Iran to South Korea when the collision occurred 257 kilometers (160 miles) off the coast of Shanghai, China's Ministry of Transport said.

The 164,154 dwt Sanchi, carrying 136,000 mt or 960,000 barrels of South Pars condensate, caught fire late Saturday after a collision with another vessel in the East China Sea.

By comparison, the Exxon Valdez was carrying 1.26 million barrels of crude oil when it spilled 260,000 barrels into Prince William Sound off Alaska in 1989.

An oil slick has spread out from the Iranian tanker at a radius of at least a half-mile. Unlike the thick crude that gushed out of the Valdez, much of the light, gassy condensate from the Sanchi may have evaporated or burned immediately, Kwon said. The shipment, destined for Panama, was worth around $60 million. The National Iranian Tanker Co. describes itself as operating the largest tanker fleet in the Middle East.

The National Iranian Tanker Co., which carried internationally-credited insurance, said it had formed an emergency committee to investigate the cause of the incident.

Rescuers on Tuesday found a body believed to be a sailor from the Iranian-operated tanker, while a search continued for 31 other missing crew members.The Iranian company who owns the ship said there is still hope of finding survivors.

"We have no information on their fate", he said Sunday.

Chinese firefighters spent Thursday struggling to extinguish the blaze as criticism mounted in Iran over whether enough was being done to locate dozens of its missing crew members.

An NITC spokesperson had previously suggested China might be more concerned with stopping a major oil leak in waters important to their fishing industry than rushing to save crew members.

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