An Iranian oil tanker has collided with a bulk freighter and caught fire off China’s eastern coast, leaving its entire crew of 32 missing, most of them Iranians, authorities said.
The missing, 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, are all from the tanker Sanchi, which spilled oil and was floating while still burning early on Sunday.
Chinese maritime authorities dispatched police vessels and three cleaning ships to the scene while the South Korean coast guard also sent a ship and an airplane to aid the search effort.
The Panama-registered tanker was sailing from Iran to South Korea when it collided with the Hong Kong-registered freighter CF Crystal 160 miles from shore late on Saturday, the Ministry of Transport said.
The 21 members of the Crystal’s crew, all Chinese nationals, were rescued, the ministry said.
It was not immediately clear what caused the collision.
The ship has operated under five different names in the time since it was built in 2008, according the UN-run International Maritime Organisation.
The IMO listed its registered owner as Hong Kong-based Bright Shipping Ltd, care 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 Iran’s oil ministry said 30 of the 32 crew members on the ship were Iranians.
“We have no information on their fate,” he said.
“We cannot say all of them are died, because rescue teams are there and providing services.”
He said the tanker was owned by the National Iranian Tanker Co, and had been rented by a South Korean company, Hanwha Total Co.
He said the tanker was on its way to South Korea.
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.
It is 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.