A tanker carrying Iranian oil and run by the country's top oil shipping operator was ablaze and spewing cargo into the East China Sea on Sunday after colliding with a Chinese bulk ship, leaving its 32 crew members missing, the Chinese government said.
Thick clouds of dark smoke could be seen billowing out of the Sanchi tanker , engulfing the vessel as rescue efforts were hampered by bad weather and fire on and around the ship, officials said. China, South Korea and the U.S. sent ships and planes to search for the 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis who have been missing since the collision late Saturday.
The Panama-registered tanker collided with the CF Crystal about 160 nautical miles off the coast near Shanghai on Saturday evening, the Transportation Ministry said in statement Sunday.
It was sailing from Iran to South Korea, carrying 136,000 tonnes of condensate, an ultra light crude. That's equivalent to just under 1 million barrels worth around $60 million based on current global crude oil prices.
"Sanchi is floating and burning as of now. There is an oil slick and we are pushing forward with rescue efforts," the ministry said, adding it had dispatched four rescue ships and three cleaning boats to the site.
South Korea has also sent a ship and helicopter to help.
The tanker's 32 crew members were all Iranian nationals except for two Bangladeshi nationals, the Chinese transport ministry said.
All 21 members of the Crystal's crew — all Chinese nationals — were rescued, the ministry said.
It wasn't immediately clear what caused the collision.
The incident marked the first major maritime incident involving an Iranian tanker since the lifting of international sanctions on Iran in January 2016