Tanker oil slick poses potential environmental disaster, experts warn

By Yin Han Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/15 23:42:49

China's ocean authorities are monitoring the East China Sea after the tanker Sanchi sank leaving a 10-mile oil slick that experts warned might spell an environmental health disaster.

Staffers at the State Oceanic Administration have collected water samples at seven locations, according to a notice released on the administration website on Monday.

Air and sea monitoring continued to identify the distribution and expansion of the slick, said the notice. More results are needed to gauge the incident's impact on the ecology of the neighboring waters.

Rescue efforts ended noon on Monday with 29 crew missing, China Central Television (CCTV) reported.

China has launched a cleanup as the sunk Iranian oil tanker carried condensate, an ultralight version of crude oil, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a daily briefing on Monday. 

An oil spill can be seen on the surrounding water surface at a length of 10 nautical miles and a width of one to four nautical miles, many times longer than Sunday, CCTV reported on Monday.

Collection could be difficult as condensate is rarely encountered in marine accidents, Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times on Monday. Condensate is slightly soluble in water and also highly volatile, he noted.

An expert on Monday warned the slick would cause "a huge disaster to the ecological environment as well as the fishery industry."

"Marine creatures could die from the spilled oil, and a big reduction in aquatic products can be expected," Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times.

Fish and shrimp in the sea could become inedible from pollution, Lin said, and could cause further health problems if passed onto humans through the food chain.

"We still need time to tell the impact on marine lives as the oil pollution will move with the wind as well as the ocean currents," Zhao Zhangyuan, a researcher at the Chinese Environmental Sciences Research Academy told the Global Times on Monday.

Machines have been launched by the East China Sea Branch of the State Oceanic Administration to scan and estimate the area of the oil slick and the possible impact, CCTV reported Monday.

Sanchi sank after a second explosion at noon on Sunday in the East China Sea, sending flames as high as 1,000 meters, CCTV reported on Sunday.

The Ministry of Transport said the ship tilted a little to the right after exploding and sent flames as high as 1,000 meters.


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