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Iranian Oil Tanker Drifts Into Japanese Waters As Fires Rage On

The Iranian oil tanker that collided with another vessel in the East China Sea is now drifting towards the Japanese exclusive economic zone due to strong winds, according to emerging reports, which say the fuel on the ship continues to cause small explosions and fires.

The Japanese coast guard told reporters that the ship, named Sanchi, stood 186 miles northwest of the city of Sokkozaki, located in the northern part of the country, as of Thursday. A new report from the Wall Street Journal also notes that the Chinese freighter and the Iranian tanker had stopped transmitting their locations to naval tracking systems prior to the crash.

The National Iranian Tanker Co. owns Sanchi, which was carrying one million barrels of ultra-light crude and condensate to South Korea. Condensate is highly flammable and very toxic, which could create a different kind of problem for the search and rescue teams around the vessel, whose task has been already made extra-difficult by the stormy weather.

Chinese CCTV says the tanker has drifted 25 miles south over the past two days due to high winds. Fourteen rescue vessels have been summoned to put out the fire so far, but it continues to rage.  

The U.S. Navy joined the search and rescue efforts on Sunday, sending a military aircraft to the area, which spans 3,600 square nautical miles. The vessel’s cargo is worth around $60 million at current crude oil prices.

The company that bought the condensate is South Korean Hanwa Total Petrochemical, a joint venture between South Korean Hanwa General Chemicals and French Total. The company is trying to find a replacement for the lost cargo. A spokesman told Reuters earlier this week that there are three alternatives: Hanwa can use condensate it has in stock, order another cargo from Iran, or approach Qatar as an alternative supplier.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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