Bunker fuel removal attempts continue at sunken Sanchi

Chinese salvage crews were continuing to try to remove an estimated 1,900 tonnes of bunker fuel from sunken Iranian oil tanker Sanchi, the Chinese Ministry of Transport said on February 1st, 25 days after Sanchi collided with freight ship CF Crystal, exploded, caught fire, and, six days later, exploded and sank.

The MoT said that if the fuel was not cleaned up it could pollute the marine environment. Most of the fuel on the tanker was condensate, but around 1,000 tonnes of bunker fuel was initially thought to be in the vessel’s fuel tanks. That estimate seems to have been almost doubled by the Chinese MoT. Bunker fuel is less toxic than condensate, but is harder to remove from the ocean once it is spilled.

Five Chinese vessels, one Japanese ship and one from South Korea are involved in the clean-up effort over an area spanning 226 sq nm.

The MoT added that salvage crews had not found any other bodies on the surface of the sea. Three bodies were found in the immediate aftermath of the collision. The others are assumed to have been killed in the first explosion.

Meanwhile Iranian insurers are to compensate 30% of the costs while the rest would be covered by “a Norwegian firm”, claimed the president of the Central Insurance of Iran. “A Norwegian insurance firm is responsible for covering 70% the tanker’s losses while domestic insurance companies, namely Alborz and Mellat, account for the remaining 20% and 10%, respectively”, said Abdolnasser Hemmati on the CII website.

He qdded that one half of the share of Iranian insurance firms’ risks had been reinsured by state-owned Central Insurance of Iran (CII), which is also the industry’s regulator. Hemmati said that the tanker, run by National Iranian Tanker Co, was worth about $32m. Hemmati said that the tanker had been leased by Hanwha Total Petrochemical Co Ltd and that they had made a free on board deal with NITC – implying that the Korean side was probably responsible for covering the oil spills of the collision. “The tanker has been carrying ultra-light crude condensate and the buyer has received the cargo on the deck, therefore it is the Korean company’s responsibility to deal with the pollution resulting from the cargo’s spill”, claimed Hemmati.

Alborz Insurance said that the vessel was a total loss that required the related insurance firms to pay a total sum of $32m. “The maximum loss we have to pay is $6.4m. Mellat Insurance Firm’s share does not exceed $3.2m. The remaining $22.4m will be covered by foreign insurers,” Alborz technical director Ahmad Safarzadeh said.

Hanwha appeared to think that it would be able to claim compensation for the cargo’s loss under its own insurance programme, while the damage caused by the collision would probably be covered under NITC’s policy.

Sanchi is entered with Steamship Underwriting (Smuab), Eastern Syndicate, on behalf of Bright Shipping Ltd.

CF Crystal, owned by Changong Group HK Ltd care of manager Shanghai CP International Ship Management of Shanghai, China, is entered with Skuld on behalf of Changfeng Shipping Holdings Lim.

Skuld has confirmed it was the lead hull insurer for the tanker and the protection and indemnity (P&I) insurer for CF Crystal.