China Says 32 People, Mostly Iranians, Missing After Oil Tanker Collision

The 32 crew-members were on board the Sanchi - a Panama-registered vessel carrying 136,000 tons of oil - which caught fire after the collision 160 nautical miles (296 km) off the coast.

An official in Iran's Oil Ministry said 30 of the tanker's 32 crew members were Iranians.

The 21 crew members of the freighter were rescued, however there was no contact to the crew members of the oil tanker, which was transporting oil from Iran to South Korea, Xinhua reported. That is equivalent to just under 1 million barrels, worth about $60 million, based on global crude oil prices.

The 274-meter-long tanker was still ablaze on Sunday and images on Chinese television showed huge clouds of smoke rising from the stricken vessel.

It had sent four rescue ships and three cleaning boats to the site by 9 a.m. (0100 GMT) on Sunday, the ministry added.

The tanker, managed by the National Iranian Tanker Company, was insured by internationally credited insurers, according to Iran's oil ministry.

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Chinese authorities have dispatched eight ships for the search and rescue operation, while South Korea have sent a plane and coastguard ship to help.

It wasn't immediately clear what caused the collision. The National Iranian Tanker Co describes itself as operating the largest tanker fleet in the Middle East. Its registered owner is Bright Shipping Ltd.

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

"We have no information on their fate", he said.

The Chinese ministry said the second ship in the collision was a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship carrying 64,000 tons of grain.

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