Two oil slicks now visible from sunken Sanchi

Sunken oil tanker Sanchi (IMO 9356608) had generated two oil slicks covering a combined 42 sq m in the East China Sea, the Chinese government said Tuesday January 16th. Maritime police are preparing to explore the wreck. China was preparing to send a residential remotely operated vehicle (rROV), possibly followed by divers to explore and plug holes in the hull of the Sanchi. No timeline was given.

The Shanghai Maritime Search and Rescue Centre said that larger salvage vessels would be sent to support the operation. Divers might also be able to pump out oil from the fuel tanks before they leak and contaminate the seabed, the SAR Centre said.

Satellite imaging showed one slick of about 26.6 sq m and another of about 15.4 sq m, the latter being more diffuse, the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said in a statement late on Tuesday.

The bodies of two sailors were recovered from the ship while a third body was later pulled from the sea near the vessel. The remaining 29 crew of the ship are presumed dead.

On Wednesday the Chinese Ministry of Transport said the salvage team had located the wreck, which was at a depth of 115 metres and that they were preparing to send underwater robots to explore it.

The SOA said vessels had taken 31 water samples in the area around the wreck containing black grease with heavy oil smells, and a concentration of petroleum that exceeds some seawater quality standard limits.

Clean-up teams were continuing to monitor the wreck area to assess the distribution and drift of the oil spill and the ecological impact.

The Japan Coast Guard said on Wednesday the oil slick was “diffusing and disappearing”. The Japan Coast Guard said that the slick was meandering across an area about 21.8 miles long and 17.4 miles wide, with a width of between 200 metres and 300 metres

The Sanchi collided with bulk carrier CF Crystal (IMO 9497050) on January 6th about 160 nm off Shanghai, igniting immediately, but strong winds pushed it away from the Chinese coast, where the incident happened, and into Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The ship was carrying 136,000 tonnes of condensate Sanchi sank eight days later, after several explosions weakened the hull.