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Iranian Oil Tanker Sinks After Second Explosion

A second explosion on board the Iranian tanker Sanchi, which had been burning for a week, sank the vessel, leaving no hope for any survivors from the 32-strong crew.

The Sanchi carried about a million barrels of Iranian condensate to South Korea and collided with a Chinese freighter carrying American wheat on January 6th near Shanghai. The vessel’s cargo is worth around US$60 million at current crude oil prices. The cause of the collision remains unclear, but the rescue teams have recovered the tanker’s voice data recorder, which could shed some light on the collision.

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Rescue efforts involved Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and U.S. crews, but their efforts were hampered by bad weather conditions.

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Now, according to Chinese government authorities, three bodies of crew members have been recovered from the sea, and there is a 3.8-square-mile area contaminated with condensate that spilled from the burning tanker. Yet there is no huge concern about the environment as condensate evaporates easily. On the other hand, it is also highly flammable.

The company that bought the condensate is South Korean Hanwa Total Petrochemical, a joint venture between South Korean Hanwa General Chemicals and French Total. At the moment, it is trying to find a replacement for the lost cargo. A spokesman told Reuters 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.

The owner of the tanker is the National Iranian Tanker Company, which says it has the largest tanker fleet in the Middle East. The Associated Press recalls that this is the second collision involving a NITC tanker in 18 months. The first one occurred in August 2016, when a tanker collided with a Swiss container ship in the Singapore Strait. However, that accident was much smaller, causing no injury to crew members or oil spills.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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