Sinking of Sanchi must lead to improved regional emergency preparedness

By Xiao Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/21 23:28:40

The sinking of the Iranian oil tanker Sanchi in the East China Sea in January, an event whose environmental impact is still being assessed, will prompt greater regulatory transparency to provide public access to information about all possible risks from oil pollution.

More importantly, the incident can be a much-needed wake-up call for China to work with its neighbors to develop an effective emergency preparedness system for marine pollution incidents.

The Iranian-owned Sanchi tanker, which carried 136,000 tons of condensate, a light version of crude oil, sunk in mid-January after burning for several days after colliding with a Hong Kong-registered freighter carrying grain.

Several oil slicks were found near the site of the disaster, the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said in a statement shortly after the sinking, which occurred in the waters among three countries - China, Japan and South Korea.

The Chinese government has sought to keep the public up to date on the incident, with the SOA having issued more than 40 statements since January 12 regarding its response to the event. The statements have tracked the oil spill and the slicks found in waters around the collision site.

But these statements don't seem to have done enough to allay public concerns about the potential impact on fisheries in the area, which is believed to be a major spawning ground for many edible ocean species.

"Concerns are growing about the potential impact on key fishing grounds and sensitive marine ecosystems off Japan and South Korea, which lie in the projected path of the oil [Sanchi leaked into water]," Reuters reported in late January, citing the UK's National Oceanography Centre. Such concerns should prompt stricter scrutiny of aquatic products that China imports from Japan and South Korea.

Without readily available official information about the monitoring of fisheries in the waters near the site, the incident could also deal a blow to China's traditional fishing grounds as Chinese people become increasingly wary of food safety.

It's important for the relevant authorities to improve communication with domestic fishing fleets as well as those of other countries that are operating near the site of the accident. Also, there should be enhanced information exchange among the governments and regulators of China and other affected countries. That information should be made publicly available to quash rumors.

Considering that oil spills, which in Sanchi's case could spread to three countries, involve many parties, it is important for China and its neighbors to have an effective emergency preparedness system to minimize any losses - not just economic ones but more importantly those affecting the environment.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


blog comments powered by Disqus