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Families of Sanchi tanker victims sue NITC, claim crew survived and have been locked up

With the second anniversary of the Sanchi disaster three weeks away, the family members of the victims of one of the worst tanker accidents of the decade have headed to America and filed a lawsuit against the ship’s owner, National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) and two Iranian government officials in a district court in Washington DC, alleging that the defendants were engaged in a cover-up of the incident. Sensationally, the families maintain that the crew survived the inferno and have been locked up ever since.

The law firm of Herischi & Associates announced the filing of a lawsuit against NITC, former Iranian labour minister Ali Rabiei and former chairman of the Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security of the Islamic Consultative Assembly of Iran (Majilis), Alaeddin Boroujerdi, on behalf of the families of 10 Sanchi crewmembers.

The NITC suezmax tanker collided with the Chinese bulker CF Crystal on January 6, 2018 in the East China Sea. All 32 crew – a mix of Iranians and Bangladeshis – died in the incident.

The stricken Panamanian-flagged tanker burned for more than a week, drifting in between Chinese and Japanese waters, before exploding and sinking.

The family members claim that the official report, stating that all crew members were dead within minutes of the accident, is completely baseless and no evidence of the entire crew’s deaths has been produced to date.

The complainant contest all of the allegations made by the defendants and allege that the crew of the Sanchi were seized after the collision and have been held in detention for nearly two years in an undisclosed location.

Additionally, they allege that the accused parties deliberately lied to the Iranian people and their families about the deaths of the crew, and have pressured the families to accept their version of events following the collision to put an end to questions about the incident.

According to Herischi & Associates, the complaints allege several grounds for believing that the crew survived the wreck and the key piece of evidence in support of the crew’s survival is that multiple phone calls were made from crewmembers’ cellphones to their relatives in the months following the ship’s destruction.

Following the incident, China, Iran and Panama conducted a joint investigation into the accident. The three parties reached consensus on the basic facts around the accident, including the properties of Sanchi‘s cargo, identification of the crew, time of the collision and the process of the accident. However, differences remain between China and Iran concerning the direct cause of the accident, and further details of the Sanchi‘s demise have remained frustratingly threadbare with Chinese and Iranian authorities reluctant to share much more information.

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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