'Worst situation' for marine ecology: experts
The sinking of the oil tanker the Sanchi on Sunday, which had burned for more than a week in the East China Sea, is the worst possible outcome, say experts who are concerned the submerged oil could have a severe impact on marine life.
The Sanchi broke apart after a fierce explosion and sank at around 4:45 p.m. on Sunday, said the China's Ministry of Transport in a statement on Sunday afternoon.
"The ship sinking is the worst situation," Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs told the Global Times on Sunday.
"The condensate oil, a kind of ultra light oil on Sanchi, is different than other types of crude oil and is poisonous to marine life," said Ma.
The ministry said that the ship began to list and apparently broke apart after an explosion that sent flames as high as 1,000 meters.
It would have been better for the oil to have burned than to sink with the ship, Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Sunday.
"The condensate oil will probably leak from the broken ship as it sinks and any marine life that encounters it could be killed," said Lin. "Therefore, it is important to assess how much oil leaked into the sea to determine how serious the marine ecology might be impacted."
Ma said the ship sank not far from Zhoushan, East China's Zhejiang Province and constant monitoring will be necessary to track any oil slick that might move close to shore.
Some netizens worry the accident could affect the well-known Zhoushan fish farm, but a vendor with the farm's Taobao shop told the Global Times on Sunday that the farm is not close to where the ship went down and their fishery is not likely to be affected.
Ma said it is important to evaluate how much of the ship's cargo had burned off during the long-fought fire and Sunday's explosion to determine how much was left on the ship when it went down.
Four Chinese rescuers recovered the bodies of two sailors and the voyage data recorder on Saturday, the Legal Mirror reported on Sunday.
The Sanchi, which was carrying 136,000 tons of light crude oil from Iran, collided with the CF Crystal, a Hong Kong-registered bulk freighter, about 160 nautical miles east of the Yangtze estuary on January 6. The tanker had a crew of 32, including 30 Iranians and two from Bangladesh, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Some 13 vessels, including coast guard ships from South Korea, Japan and a Japanese firefighting ship fought the fire, searched for the missing and are involved the cleanup.