Iranian Oil Tanker Collides with Chinese Freighter, 32 Missing

Thirty-two crew members, including 30 Iranians and two Bengalese, have gone missing after two vessels collided off China’s east coast on Saturday evening, China’s Ministry of Transport said Sunday as quoted by Tehran Times.

The collision, between a Panama-registered oil tanker and a Hong Kong-registered bulk freighter, occurred at around 8 p.m. Saturday in waters about 160 sea miles east of the Yangtze River’s estuary, the ministry said, Xinhua reported. The 32 missing crew members were all from the oil tanker, which capsized after the collision. All 21 crew members on the bulk freighter – all Chinese nationals – have been rescued, according to the ministry.

The 274-meter-long oil tanker SANCHI, owned by an Iranian shipping company and with 136,000 tons of condensate oil on board, was traveling from Iran to the Republic of Korea (ROK). It caught fire after the collision and was still burning, according to the ministry. The ministry said oil spilled into the sea, but did not specify the area of contamination.

The 225-meter-long bulk freighter CF CRYSTAL carried 64,000 tons of grain and was partly damaged. It is owned by a Chinese shipping company and was traveling from the United States to Guangdong, China.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) later on Sunday cited an Iranian official as confirming that the tanker was Iranian but was leased by a Korean firm. He said the tanker had been rented by a South Korean company, Hanwha Total Co. He said the tanker was on its way to South Korea.

Hanwa Total is a 50-50 partnership between the Seoul-based Hanwha Group and the French oil giant Total. Total did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kasra Nouri, the director of public relations at the Iranian Ministry of Petroleum, was cited by IRNA as saying that the vessel was owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company and had had its cargo loaded on behalf of the Korean firm, the Hanwha Total Petrochemical. Nouri said most of the crew on board the tanker were Iranian but added that the Ministry of Petroleum had the details.

IRNA said that all crew members on board the tanker were said to have been killed in the incident, without providing a source. Search and rescue operations were underway.

Chinese maritime authorities have dispatched eight vessels, including three specialized cleansing vessels, for search and rescue. After coordination with the China Maritime Search and Rescue Center, the ROK dispatched a coast guard ship and a fixed-wing aircraft to assist in the search and rescue.

Firefighters were also deployed to the site to help battle the flames, and the South Korean Marine Police Agency dispatched a marine police ship and a fixed-wing aircraft to help with the search and rescue operation. It’s the second collision for a ship from the National Iranian Tanker Co. in less than a year and a half. In August 2016, one of its tankers collided with a Swiss container ship in the Singapore Strait, damaging both ships but causing no injuries or oil spill.