SHANGHAI – The oil slicks left by the Iranian oil tanker Sanchi, after it exploded and sank on Sunday are multiplying in the Sea of China, according to China’s State Oceanic Administration late Monday.
The agency said in a statement that several oil spills have been found near the site where the ship sank and that they were much larger than the previous ones.
On Monday morning, a 14.8 km long oil slick was found 7.2 kilometers southwest of the sinking site and another 18.2-km-long slick east of the site.
Besides, surveillance planes also reported a third oil slick spreading towards north with a radius of around five km.
The oil slicks are easily visible from the air and no burning has been observed on the surface of the sea, said the agency, adding the oil slicks are likely to move northward due to wind and sea currents.
However, it was unclear if the spilled oil was part of the cargo – condensate -, or if it was bunker fuel, which is more complicated to clean up.
The Iranian oil tanker Sanchi, registered in Panama, exploded and sank on Sunday afternoon, eight days after colliding with the Hong Kong-registered bulk freighter CF Crystal, about 300 kilometers east of the estuary of the Yangtze River near Shanghai, on Jan. 6.
The tanker was carrying 136,000 tons of refined petroleum condensate and a good part of that cargo burned during the fire that consumed the ship for a week, although some of it could have ended up in the ocean.
It sank about 280 km southeast of the point of collision after drifting for eight days.
Experts are examining the vessel’s black box, which they recovered from the ship shortly before it sank, and according to the foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang, it will be helpful in investigating the cause of the accident.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) asked on Monday that everything possible will be done to clean up the spill and called “for the urgent mobilization of all available containment equipment to remove the toxic slick and reduce the threat it poses to marine life.”
“We now have an environmental disaster unfolding before our eyes. The stricken tanker is leaking its cargo of condensate, which is toxic to marine mammals, fish, sea turtles and seabirds,” it said in a statement.
The China Sea is one of the richest and most productive marine environments on the planet, and its waters are relatively shallow and therefore highly vulnerable to the toxic slick from this disaster, the statement added.