Iran confirms its oil tanker incident, says 30 citizens missing

Coast Guard vessel ICGS Rajkamal reached the spot at around 5 PM and rescued the 11 crew members of cargo ship ITT Panther which sank off the coast of the Andaman islands

An Iranian oil tanker collided with a bulk freighter and caught fire off China's east coast, leaving the tanker's entire crew of 32 missing and causing it to spill oil into the sea, authorities said Sunday.

The tanker's 32 crew members are all Iranian nationals except for two Bangladeshi nationals, the Chinese transport ministry said.

By comparison, the Exxon Valdez was carrying 1.26 million barrels of crude oil when it spilled 260,000 barrels off Alaska in 1989.

Dramatic pictures show plumes of black smoke rising from the scene as the ship is engulfed by a huge fire.

Chinese officials dispatched several maritime police vessels, two rescue boats, and three professional cleaning ships to the area.

The 21-strong crew aboard the Hong Kong-registered CF Crystal have all been rescued and the ship was not severely damaged.

Reuters reports that the Panama-flagged Sanchi is managed by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), owned by Bright Shipping and chartered by Hanwha Total Petrochemical.

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Chinese maritime authorities have sent eight ships for the search and rescue operation and South Korea has sent a plane and a 3,000-tonne coastguard ship to help.

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.

The incident also marked the first major maritime incident involving an Iranian tanker since the lifting of worldwide sanctions against Iran in January 2016.

The Chinese government gave no details of the size of the spill.

The Iranian oil tanker Sanchi burns after its collision with a freighter off China's east coast.

The Sanchi has operated under five different names since it was built in 2008, according the United Nations -run International Maritime Organization.

Hanwha Total was not immediately available for comment.

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