Stricken Tanker Leaves Large Oil Slick in East China Sea

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Japan sent two patrol boats and an airplane to the area to search for missing crew members and assess the latest situation, the Coast Guard spokesman said

The Shanghai Maritime Bureau said these, along with a South Korean patrol boat, were among the vessels carrying out emergency response work on Monday.

A Chinese salvage team on Saturday recovered two bodies from the tanker, China’s state news agency Xinhua reported. Another body, presumed to be one of the Sanchi’s sailors, was found on Jan. 8 and taken to Shanghai for identification.

Iranian officials said on Sunday the remaining 29 crew members and passengers of the tanker were presumed dead.

 

 

The salvage team recovered the Sanchi’s voyage data recorder, or “black box” from the bridge of the tanker, Xinhua said on Saturday. But the team was forced to leave the ship after just half an hour because the wind shifted and “thick toxic smoke” had complicated the operation.

“Finding the black box will be helpful for all parties in correctly determining the reasons for the accident,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Monday.

Lu said rescue and clean-up efforts had been a focus for China from the beginning, but that Beijing welcomed “other relevant parties” to participate in both the search and rescue and treatment work.

 

“TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE”

Experts worry the ship’s sinking is potentially more damaging to the marine ecosystem than letting the condensate oil burn off. The sinking will likely expel the remaining condensate and the tanker’s bunker fuel, or the heavy fuel oil that powers a ship’s engines, contaminating the surrounding waters.

Bunker fuel is the dirtiest kind of oil, extremely toxic when spilled, though less explosive. Condensate is poisonous to marine organisms.

 

 

“As with all major oil spills, time is of the essence. This is particularly so with condensate spills, as the substance is so toxic and volatile,” said Steiner, the U.S. marine scientist.

Fuel oil is relatively easy to contain because volumes are lower and its viscosity means it is easier to extract from water, but even small volumes can harm marine life.

 

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

The Sanchi may have been carrying about 1,000 tonnes by the time it hit the grain freighter CF Crystal, according to bunker fuel traders’ estimates.

“As the fuel oil cools, it will become more viscous which will help to slow or even prevent leaks,” Greenpeace said. “In this scenario, it is possible that we will see chronic low volume leakage over a period of time at the seabed. Impact would remain relatively local.”

(For interactive graphic on tanker blaze burns bright, click http://tmsnrt.rs/2DmrPvL)

(For graphic on map of oil tanker collision, click http://tmsnrt.rs/2CBgqai)

 

(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi in TOKYO and Josephine Mason in BEIJING; Editing by Tom Hogue and Gareth Jones)

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