Video: Tanker at Risk of Explosion off Shanghai
Chinese maritime authorities fear that the Iranian tanker Sanchi is at risk of exploding and sinking as the cargo fire on board continues. The vessel collided with the bulker CF Crystal on Saturday night and burst into flames, and all of her 32 crewmembers were reported missing. One individual has since been found dead.
According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, rough weather is interfering with the rescue work. Additionally, tanker operator National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) reports that hazardous fumes from the cargo are making the effort more difficult. “The Chinese government takes maritime accidents like this very seriously, and has already dispatched many search and rescue teams to the scene to carry out search and rescue,” Kang said. In addition to Chinese efforts, the U.S. Navy has contributed one SAR aircraft to search for survivors.
The two vessels collided about 160 nm off Shanghai on Saturday night while Sanchi was under way for Daesan, South Korea. The CF Crystal escaped without critical damage. She is now headed for the port of Luhuashan, China for an investigation into the cause of the incident.
Sanchi had about one million barrels of condensate on board, and is now said to be spilling part of her cargo. Condensate - also known as "natural gasoline" or "drip gas" - is a low-density mixture of petroleum liquids that are extracted from "wet" raw natural gas. It is lighter than water, and many of its components will evaporate at normal temperatures; it is highly volatile and flammable.
Platts and Bloomberg report that the cargo's buyer has sought out a replacement feedstock of naphtha on the regional market. A trader told Platts that South Korean condensate splitters are busy in the wintertime and the buyer would need to find spot market sources to replace the lost supply. Bloomberg reports that buyer Hanwha Total has since secured five smaller cargoes of naphtha.