BEIJING – A tanker carrying Iranian oil and operated by the country’s top oil shipping operator caught fire and spewed its cargo into the East China Sea yesterday after colliding with a Chinese bulk ship, the Chinese government said.

The Sanchi tanker, registered in Panama, collided with the CF Crystal 160 nautical miles off the coast near Shanghai on Saturday evening, the Ministry of Transportation said in statement issued yesterday.

The tanker’s 32 crewmembers – 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis – remained missing as of Sunday afternoon.

It was sailing from Iran to South Korea, carrying 136,000 tons of condensate, an ultra light crude. That’s equivalent to just under one million barrels worth around $60 million based on current global crude oil prices.

“Sanchi is floating and burning as of now. There is an oil slick and we are pushing forward with rescue efforts,” the ministry said, adding it had dispatched four rescue ships and three cleaning boats to the site yesterday morning.

South Korea has also sent a ship and helicopter to help. State media CCTV showed photos of the tanker ablaze and billowing plumes of thick dark smoke.

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