The fate of sailors aboard an Iranian oil tanker, drifting in the East China Sea, has been sealed after burning for more than a week. The ship sank on Sunday with 29 sailors on board presumed dead.

The blazing vessel, which was carrying 136,000 tonnes – almost one million barrels – of condensate, an ultra-light, highly flammable crude oil, sank after several explosions weakened the hull.

The Iranian oil tanker, Sanchi had been adrift and ablaze after reportedly crashing into the freighter CF Crystal on 6 January. The Sanchi may have been carrying about 1,000 tonnes of bunker fuel by the time it hit the grain freighter CF Crystal, according to bunker fuel traders.

Bunker fuel is the dirtiest kind of oil, extremely toxic when spilled, though less explosive. Condensate is poisonous to marine organisms. The East China Sea is known for its rich marine ecosystem, with whales, porpoises, seabirds and fish.

A Chinese salvage team on Saturday recovered two bodies from the tanker, China’s state news agency Xinhua reported. Another body, presumed to be one of the Sanchi’s sailors, was found on 8 January and taken to Shanghai for identification. The crew consisted of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis.

The incident has resulted in a 10-mile long oil slick, which was discovered east of the site where the ship sank. Chinese state TV CCTV said the slick was 1 to 4 nautical miles wide and had grown several times in size since the ship sank on Sunday.

The sinking marks the biggest tanker spill since 1991, when 260,000 tonnes of oil leaked off the Angolan coast. The Tanker War will now happen outside the reach of Iran’s navy.

This will prove to be the first of many such accidents that occur in the home waters of any country that buys Iran’s oil products. The message will be clear — If they don’t want an oil spill they should not buy Iran’s oil.

In the future Iran needs to escort these tankers in groups protected by war ships and submarines.

ABC / AA Magnum Analyst Blog News 2018.

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