Thirty-two crew members have been reported missing after two vessels collided off China’s east coast on Saturday evening, state media reported on Sunday.
The collision, between the Panama-registered Iranian oil tanker Sanchi and the Hong Kong-registered bulk freighter CF Crystal, happened about 8pm on Saturday in the East China Sea, about 160 nautical miles east of the Yangtze River Delta, Xinhua said, citing a statement from China’s Ministry of Transport.
The missing crew members – 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis – were all from the oil tanker, the report said, adding that the 21 members of the freighter’s crew – all Chinese nationals – had been rescued.
After the collision a fire broke out on the tanker, which was still burning as of 9am Sunday, the statement said.
“Sanchi is floating and burning as of now [9am]. There is an oil slick and we are pushing forward with rescue efforts,” it said, without giving any details about the size of the slick.
China’s maritime authorities have dispatched eight vessels to support the search and rescue effort, three of which will be involved in the clean-up operation, while South Korea, after coordinating with the China Maritime Search and Rescue Centre, has sent a coastguard ship and a fixed wing aircraft to assist.
The tanker, which is owned by an Iranian shipping company and managed by the National Iranian Tanker Co (NITC), was travelling from Kharg Island in Iran to Daesan in northwestern South Korea and was expected to arrive on Sunday night.
It was carrying 136,000 tonnes, or just under 1 million barrels, of an ultra light crude worth about US$60 million.
The Hong Kong-registered freighter is owned by a company based in eastern China’s Zhejiang province and was transporting grain from the United States to the southern China province of Guangdong.
The vessel, which was reported to have been damaged in the collision, was due to arrive at its destination on Wednesday. The reports did not elaborate on the extent of the damage.
The incident is the second involving an NITC-operated vessel in less than two years. In August 2016, one of its supertankers collided with a container ship in the Singapore Strait. There were no casualties and the incident did not cause any pollution.
Additional reporting by Reuters