US joins search for 32 miss­ing af­ter ships col­lide off China

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - World -

BEI­JING -- The US Navy has joined the search for 32 crew mem­bers miss­ing from an Ira­nian oil tanker that caught fire af­ter col­lid­ing with a bulk freighter off China's east coast.

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 U.S. Navy, which sent a P-8A air­craft from Ok­i­nawa, Ja­pan, to aid the search, said late Sun­day that none of the miss­ing crew had been found.

The Panama-reg­is­tered tanker Sanchi was sail­ing from Iran to South Korea when it col­lided late Satur­day with the Hong Kong-reg­is­tered freighter CF Crys­tal in the East China Sea, 257 kilo­me­ters (160 miles) off the coast of Shang­hai, China's Min­istry of Trans­port said.

All 21 crew mem­bers of the Crys­tal, which was car­ry­ing grain from the United States to China, were res­cued, the min­istry said. The Crys­tal's crew mem­bers were all Chi­nese na­tion­als.

It wasn't im­me­di­ately clear what caused the col­li­sion.

State-run China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion re­ported Sun­day evening that the tanker was still float­ing and burn­ing, and that oil was vis­i­ble in the water. Pho­tos dis­trib­uted by the South Korean govern­ment showed the tanker on fire and shrouded in thick black smoke.

Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties dis­patched three ships to clean the oil spill. It was not clear, how­ever, whether the tanker was still spilling oil as of Mon­day and the size of the oil slick caused by the ac­ci­dent also was not known.

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

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.

The Sanchi has op­er­ated un­der five dif­fer­ent names since it was built in 2008, ac­cord­ing the U.N.run In­ter­na­tional Maritime Or­ga­ni­za­tion. The IMO listed its reg­is­tered owner as Hong Kong-based Bright Ship­ping Ltd., on be­half of the Na­tional Ira­nian Tanker Co., a pub­licly traded com­pany based in Tehran. The Na­tional Ira­nian Tanker Co. de­scribes it­self as op­er­at­ing the largest tanker fleet in the Mid­dle East.

An of­fi­cial in Iran's Oil Min­istry, who spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to speak to re­porters, said 30 of the tanker's 32 crew mem­bers were Ira­ni­ans.

“We have no in­for­ma­tion on their fate,” he said Sun­day. “We can­not say all of them have died, be­cause res­cue teams are there and pro­vid­ing ser­vices.”

The of­fi­cial said the tanker was owned by the Na­tional Ira­nian Tanker Co. and 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.

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. (AP)

In this photo pro­vided by Korea Coast Guard, the Panama-reg­is­tered tanker "Sanchi" is seen ablaze af­ter a col­li­sion with a Hong Kong-reg­is­tered freighter off China's eastern coast Sun­day, Jan. 7, 2018. The oil tanker col­lided with a bulk freighter and caught fire off China's eastern coast, leav­ing its en­tire crew of 32 miss­ing, most of them Ira­ni­ans, au­thor­i­ties said. (Korea Coast Guard via AP)

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