Iranian oil tanker wreck leaves produces 109-sq km oil slicks in East China Sea

January 17, 2018 - 10:14 AM
Flames and smoke from the Iranian oil tanker Sanchi is seen in the East China Sea, on January 15. (10th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters (Japan)/Handout via Reuters)

BEIJING — An Iranian oil tanker that sank in the East China Sea has left two oil slicks covering a combined 109 square kilometers (42 square miles), the Chinese government said late on Tuesday, as maritime police scour the area for damage.

Satellite imaging showed a slick of 69 square kilometers (26.6 square miles) and a second 40-square kilometer (15.4 square mile) slick, which is less thick and not as concentrated, the State Oceanic Administration said in a statement.

The large tanker Sanchi (IMO:9356608) sank in the worst oil ship disaster in decades on Sunday, raising worries about damage to the marine ecosystem.

The vessel’s crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis are all believed to have perished in the incident.

The SOA said vessels have taken 31 water samples in the area around the wreck containing black grease with heavy oil smells, and a concentration of petroleum that exceeds some seawater quality standard limits.

The news comes as clean-up teams continue to monitor the wreck area to assess the distribution and drift of the oil spill and the ecological impact.

The tanker had been adrift and ablaze after crashing into the freighter CF Crystal (IMO:9497050) on Jan. 6. Strong winds pushed it away from the Chinese coast, where the incident happened, and into Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

The ship, which was carrying 136,000 tonnes or almost a million barrels of condensate — an ultra-light, highly flammable crude oil — sank after several explosions weakened the hull.

On Tuesday, Japan’s environment ministry said it doesn’t see much chance that the spill will reach its shores.