Burning oil tanker in East China Sea sinks

Photos: Iranian tanker on fire after crashing into Chinese ship and spilling tonnes of oil into the ocean

An oil tanker burning in the East China Sea for more than a week has finally sunk, Chinese media say.

The collision between the two vessels happened at 1600 on 6 January and caused a fire to engulf Sanchi.

As Rick Steiner, a US marine scientist explained to the news service, the East China Sea is known for its rich-but already polluted-marine ecosystem that includes whales, porpoises and seabirds.

The tanker, owned by National Iranian Tanker Co, was carrying nearly 1 million barrels of condensate, an ultra-light crude oil, to South Korea. The ship's last confirmed location was about 315 kilometres west of Sokkozaki on the island of Amami Oshima, one of the northern islands in the Ryukyu island chain that includes Okinawa.

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Zarif expressed gratitude for China's efforts on rescuing Iranian sailors. On January 8 the bulker was escorted by a rescue vessel into Zhoushan, south of Shanghai, where it is now moored.

"There is no hope of finding survivors among the members of the crew", Mohammad Rastad, spokesman for the Iranian rescue team sent to Shanghai, told Iran's state broadcaster.

The salvage team also recovered the ship's "black box" recording unit. Although condensate easily burns off or evaporates in a fire, it could seriously harm the marine environment if trapped underwater. The slick is thought to be made up of heavy fuel used to power the vessel.

Baxter said a more devastating impact was seen from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, when an explosion on a drilling platform caused a massive oil spill that affected beaches and coastal wetlands. "Oil spills from the ship are still burning". "This is particularly so with condensate spills, as the substance is so toxic and volatile", said Steiner.

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A rescue ship works to extinguish the fire on the stricken Iranian oil tanker Sanchi in the East China Sea last Wednesday. Condensate is an ultra-light oil that is highly toxic and much more explosive than regular crude oil.

A Suezmax tanker can hold a maximum of 5,000 tonnes of bunker fuel.

International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) managing director Dr Karen Purnell told Tanker Shipping and Trade that the time Sanchi spent burning meant the environmental damage could potentially be less than that of other tanker accidents.

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