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Authorities struggle to douse NITC tanker fire

Firefighting operations to douse the NITC tanker Sanchi in the East China Sea near Shanghai carried on for a fourth straight day on Wednesday with little visible progress. The tanker is still burning and 31 crew of the vessel remain missing after rescuers found a seafarer’s body yesterday.

According to an official from the Shanghai Maritime Administration, the Ministry of Transport has deployed more vessels and personnel to join the operations.

“The rescuers still cannot get near the tanker until the fire is contained,” the official said.

China’s Ministry of Transport said in a release that it had not found a “large-scale” oil leak around the incident site and it quoted an oil spill response expert from Yantai Maritime Administration saying that the condensate will burn off or evaporate quickly and leave little residue in the water, but the burning and evaporating process could generate toxic and polluting substances into the air.

Mohsen Bahrami, a spokesman for National Iranian Tanker Co (NITC), spoke at a press conference telling reporters that Iran has requested help from the Japanese government and Japan will join the search and rescue operations soon, adding that there is still a chance the missing crew are stuck in the vessel’s engine room which is about 14 m under water.

Bahrami also confirmed that the nationality of the body found is Iranian.

In a separate report, Reuters quoted Park Sung-dong, an official from South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, saying the fire onboard the vessel could last for two weeks or even a month considering previous cases of oil tanker accidents.

The other vessel in the incident, CF Crystal (pictured), has suffered a major damage at its bow. It has now been escorted to anchor near Zhoushan for further investigation. There hasn’t been any update on the cause of the collision.

Jason Jiang

Jason is one of the most prolific writers on the diverse China shipping & logistics industry and his access to the major maritime players with business in China has proved an invaluable source of exclusives. Having been working at Asia Shipping Media since inception, Jason is the chief correspondent of Splash and associate editor of Maritime CEO magazine. Previously he had written for a host of titles including Supply Chain Asia, Cargo Facts and Air Cargo Week.
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