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US joins search for 32 missing after ships collide off China

BEIJING The US Navy has joined the search for 32 missing from an Iranian oil tanker that caught fire after colliding with a bulk freighter off Chinas east coast. 

China South Korea and the U.S. sent ships and planes to search for the 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis missing since the collision late Saturday. The US Navy which sent a P 8A aircraft from Okinawa Japan to aid the search said late Sunday none of the missing crew had been found.

The Panama registered tanker Sanchi was sailing from Iran to South Korea when it collided with the Hong Kong registered freighter CF Crystal in the East China Sea Chinas Ministry of Transport said. 


All 21 crew members of the Crystal were rescued the ministry said. 

It wasnt immediately clear what caused the collision. 


Chinese authorities dispatched police vessels and three cleaning ships to the scene after the collision which happened late Saturday. The South Korean coast guard also sent a ship and a plane to help search for the missing crew members  30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis.


The Panama registered tanker Sanchi was sailing from Iran to South Korea when it collided with the Hong Kong registered freighter CF Crystal in the East China Sea 257 kilometers 160 miles off the coast of Shanghai Chinas Ministry of Transport said.

By comparison the Exxon Valdez was carrying 1.26 million barrels of crude oil when it spilled 260000 barrels into Prince William Sound off Alaska in 1989.


The Sanchi has operated under five different names since it was built in 2008 according the U.N. run International Maritime Organization. The IMO listed its registered owner as Hong Kong based Bright Shipping Ltd. on behalf of the National Iranian Tanker Co. a publicly traded company based in Tehran. The National Iranian Tanker Co. describes itself as operating the largest tanker fleet in the Middle East.


An official in Irans Oil Ministry who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters said 30 of the tankers 32 crew members were Iranians.


Hanwa Total is a 50 50 partnership between the Seoul based Hanwha Group and the French oil giant Total. Total did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Its the second collision for a ship from the National Iranian Tanker Co. in less than a year and a half. In August 2016, one of its tankers collided with a Swiss container ship in the Singapore Strait damaging both ships but causing no injuries or oil spill.


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