Oil slick covers 55 sq m after Sanchi sinks

An oil-slick covering an area about 8.1m by 6.8m is covering an area of the East China Sea, both close to and within the Japanese economic zone. Suezmax oil tanker Sanchi (IMO 9356608) suffered a collision with bulk-grain carrier CF Crystal (IMO 9497050) on the evening of January 6th, since when it had been adrift and ablaze, with strong winds pushing it away from the Chinese coast, and into Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The Japan Coast Guard said that the slick was shrinking as patrol boats battled to contain it. It claimed that the fire on the sea surface was extinguished at around 02:00 GMT on Monday January 15th, although Chinese state TV CCTV indicated black smoke billowing from the site of the sinking for several hours subsequent to this.

There was no longer an ongoing large-scale search for survivors from the tanker, with Sanchi’s crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis all believed to have died when the tanker exploded.

There were 1m barrels (136,000 tonnes) of condensate on board Sanchi, plus some bunker fuel, when the collision occurred.

The ship’s last confirmed location was about 195 miles west of Sokkozaki on the island of Amami Oshima, one of the northern islands in the Ryukyu island chain that includes Okinawa.

The salvage team recovered the Sanchi’s voyage data recorder from the bridge of the tanker, but the team was forced to leave the ship after half an hour because the wind shifted and thick toxic smoke complicated the operation.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Monday that rescue and clean-up efforts had been a focus for China from the beginning, but that Beijing welcomed other relevant parties to participate in both the SAR and treatment work.

The ship’s sinking was seen as potentially more damaging to the marine ecosystem than permitting the condensate oil to burn off. Condensate is poisonous to marine organisms. The fuel oil will be relatively easy to contain because its viscosity makes it easier to extract from water, but even small volumes can harm marine life. A suezmax can hold a maximum of 5,000 tonnes of bunker fuel, but there could have been about 1,000 tonnes on Sanchi when it collided with CF Crystal. Greenpeace said it was possible that there would be chronic low volume leakage over a period of time at the seabed, with impact remaining relatively local.

Korean insurer Hanwa and China’s PICC have been named by Insurance Insider as lead insurers for various parts of the insurance associated with the accident. Skuld has confirmed its position as lead hull insurer for Sanchi and P&I Club insurer for CF Crystal. Steamship Mutual is the P&I insurer for Sanchi.

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.