Sanchi might be leaking bunker fuel

Sunken Iranian oil tanker Sanchi might be leaking heavy bunker fuel as well as condensate, officials said on Friday January 19th. It was not known how much bunker fuel was left inside the tanker when it sank on Sunday January 14th, but it was thought to have been carrying about 1,000 tonnes at the time of her collision with the CF Crystal in the East China Sea on Saturday January 6th, about 160 nm from Shanghai.

Huo Chuanlin of the Chinese State Oceanic Administration’s Ecological Protection Department said on Friday that there had been multiple appearances of oil slicks of different sizes and types at the point of sinking and nearby. The slicks were more than 77 sq miles in size on Thursday January 18th.

After the collision, strong winds pushed Sanchi away from the Chinese coast and into Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Huo said no oil spills had been detected near the coast, although it was hard to predict the impact on ocean life.

Officials on Friday said the ship was confirmed as carrying 111,300 tonnes of condensate (down from the initial estimate of 136,000 tonnes) before the accident. Meanwhile, Chinese authorities said that they had begun an investigation into the Sanchi loss and that they were looking into the feasibility of salvaging the wreck in a bid to minimize any contamination from the spill. But a maritime official warned that retrieving the wreckage from a depth of 115 metres at the bottom of the East China Sea could result in another explosion and fire.

Zhi Guanglu, deputy director of the China Maritime Search and Rescue Centre, told reporters that the best solution would be to organize the salvaging of the sunken ship. But others said that this would be both difficult and dangerous to attempt. The maritime authorities said that they would consult the ship owner, National Iranian Tanker, about the salvage plan. The Shanghai Maritime Search and Rescue Centre has sent more than a dozen salvage and clean-up vessels to the disaster site as well as divers and underwater robots to detect leaks. The authorities are checking Sanchi’s black box, which contains the ship’s sailing data and a voice recorder, to assess who was responsible for the collision.