32 left missing after Iranian oil tanker collides with ship in China

32 crew members are still missing after an Iranian oil tanker collided with a Chinese freight ship off China's coast. The incident could potentially disrupt shipping in and around Shanghai, one of the world’s largest and busiest ports. The environmental damage caused by the oil spill is not yet known. BEIJING (Reuters) - A tanker carrying Iranian oil and run by the country’s top oil shipping firm was ablaze and spewing cargo into the East China Sea on Sunday after colliding with a Chinese freight ship, leaving the tanker’s 32 crew members missing, the Chinese government said. Thick clouds of dark smoke could be seen billowing out of the Sanchi tanker, engulfing the vessel as rescue efforts were hampered by bad weather and fire on and around the ship, Mohammad Rastad, head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organisation, told Iranian television.  The Sanchi, run by the country’s top oil shipping operator, collided with the CF Crystal about 160 nautical miles off the coast near Shanghai and the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta on Saturday evening, the Chinese Ministry of Transportation said in a statement. The Panama-registered tanker was sailing from Iran to South Korea, carrying 136,000 tonnes of condensate, an ultra light crude. That is equivalent to just under 1 million barrels, worth about $60 million, based on global crude oil prices. “Sanchi is floating and burning as of now,” the Chinese ministry said. “There is an oil slick and we are pushing forward with rescue efforts.” It had sent four rescue ships and three cleaning boats to the site by 9 a.m. (0100 GMT) on Sunday, the ministry added. Chinese state media CCTV showed pictures of the tanker ablaze and billowing plumes of thick dark smoke. South Korea also dispatched a ship and helicopter to help. A Korean Coast Guard official confirmed the fire was still raging at 1 p.m. (0500 GMT). The tanker’s 32 crew members are all Iranian nationals except for two Bangladeshi nationals, the Chinese transport ministry said. “There is a wide perimeter of flames around the vessel because of the spillage and search and rescue efforts are being carried out with difficulty,” Iran’s Rastad said. “Unfortunately, up to this moment, there is no news of the crew,” he said. CF Crystal’s 21 crew members, all Chinese nationals, were rescued and the ship suffered “non-critical” damage, China’s transport ministry said. Shipping experts said the incident could potentially disrupt shipping in and around Shanghai, one of the world’s largest and busiest ports. It was not immediately clear how much environmental damage had been caused or the volume of oil spilled into the sea. The last major oil tanker disaster was the sinking of the Prestige off Spain in November 2002, which was carrying 77,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and caused one of Europe’s worst environmental catastrophes. About 63,000 tonnes of its cargo leaked into the Atlantic, damaging beaches in France, Spain and Portugal and forcing the closure of Spain’s richest fishing grounds. That was almost twice the size of the Exxon Valdez spill, which ravaged Alaska’s coast in 1989.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Here's what Trump's tax plan means for people at every income level from $20,000 to $269,000 a year

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