After the collision with a Hong Kong cargo ship in the China Sea, the Iranian oil tanker headed to South Korea started to burn.
Lashing winds, high waves and toxic gases are hindering dozens of rescue boats struggling to locate missing sailors from a stricken oil tanker in the East China Sea and to extinguish a fire that has burned for the past three days on the ship.
Search and firefighting efforts resumed Thursday after an onboard explosion rocked the tanker Wednesday.
A statement concerning the incident from China's Ministry of Transport said it "continued to organise full search and rescue work on site" and "continued the non-stop search for crew" who have been listed as missing since Sanchi collided with bulk carrier CF Crystal on 6 January and burst into flame.
Worldwide search efforts have involved numerous Chinese vessels, a South Korean coast guard vessel and a fixed-wing aircraft. Rescuers on Tuesday found a body believed to be a crewmember from the Iranian-operated tanker, the Sanchi, but there has been no sign of survivors.
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The Panamanian-registered vessel had a crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis. The Chinese transport ministry's announcement came after Iran's oil ministry news service Shana reported Monday that "it is unlikely that it [the tanker] will sink", though it mentioned that the tanker was still burning and was considered to be "at risk of exploding".
Unknown the causes of the collision, of course it is instead that China is facing an unprecedented environmental disaster since the tanker carried 150 thousand tons of condensed oil mostly finished at sea.
The freight ship, which was carrying United States grain, suffered limited damage and the 21 crew members, all Chinese nationals, were rescued.
As of Tuesday (9 January), search efforts were focused on a 900 square mile section of the East China Sea. A chartering manager at an Asian refiner said: "Now charterers will pay much more attention on the safety of the vessels".
Steamship Mutual P&I, which confirmed it covers the third-party liability for Sanchi, has not prepared comment on the collision or the resulting fire, saying the incident would be treated as standard and that ITOPF's evaluation would be used in its technical assessment of the investigation. In August 2016, an Iranian-owned tanker collided with a container ship in the Singapore Strait with no injuries or environmental contamination. "The cargo is still on fire, so it is hard to figure out if oil is being spilled".