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Iranian tanker disaster and oil spill in East China Sea, China

On January 6, 2018, the oil tanker SANCHI coming from Iran collided with the Chinese Hong Kong bulk carrier CF CRYSTAL in the East China Sea. The tanker caught fire and sank, with 32 deaths or missing and 130,000 tons of condensate oil spill.


        Since the entry of oil as a major energy source into human production, oil spills have occurred during the transportation process every year, and oil pollution incidents are not uncommon. Especially for shipping, according to statistics, the world's oil inflows into the sea each year due to shipwrecks amounted to 500,000 tons. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Iranian tanker disaster and oil spill in East China Sea, China
State or province:Shanghai
Location of conflict:East China Sea
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Other
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details

At 19:50 Beijing time on January 6, 2018, the Panamanian oil tanker SANCHI collided with Hong Kong bulk carrier CF CRYSTAL about 160 nautical miles east of the Yangtze River Estuary. The specific position of the collision ship is 30 °51’1’’N and 124 °57’6’’E. This caused the SANCHI to catch fire and the rudder to the right. The bulk carrier CF CRYSTAL is damaged. but does not affect the hull structure. The Ministry of Transport of China immediately deployed the search and rescue and cleanup work. Until January 10 or so, the "SANCHI" fire was still very serious, working ships have arrived near the ship began to spray foam firefighting operations. But then at 13:15 in the afternoon, when the bow of the "SANCHI" ship burst, the staff could only stop the fire-fighting work. On January 11, the "SANCHI" was still burning and the smoke was heavy, so the staff began a second firefighting operation. At 12:00 on January 14, SANCHI suddenly exploded, the bow of the ship was suspected to collapse, and the ship tilted to the right about 25 degrees. The ship burned violently, with flames up to 800 to 1000 meters or so, and about 13:45, all covered in smoke and unable to see the shape of the ship. 16:45, "SANCHI" finally sank into the sea. The sunken position is 28 degrees 22 minutes north latitude, 125 degrees 55 minutes east, about 151 nautical miles southeast of the location of the accident waters. Then the oil spilled from the ship was still burning in the sunken waters. It is understood that the accident caused the SANCHI 3 deaths and 29 missing. About 136000 tons of condensate oil spill was caused by the incident from the time to 22 January, which caused serious pollution to 332 square kilometers of sea area and seriously affected the marine ecological environment of the East China Sea.

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Project area:33,800
Type of populationUnknown
Start of the conflict:06/01/2018
Company names or state enterprises:National Iranian Tanker Co (NITC) from Iran, Islamic Rep.
Relevant government actors:China, Hong Kong, Iran, Panama, Korea, Japan
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Oil spills
Potential: Genetic contamination, Food insecurity (crop damage), Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Other Environmental impactsToxic impacts to aquatic life with long lasting effects
Health ImpactsPotential: Other environmental related diseases, Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Deaths, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsPoisoning
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Loss of livelihood
Other socio-economic impactsInternational environmental compensation
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Institutional changes
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Proposal and development of alternatives: Famous marine scientist Richard Steiner had suggested that China should immediately close all fisheries in the region of the spill, as do not want any contaminated fishery products entering the consumer market.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain: The release of tens of thousands of tons of condensate oil will continue to pose a serious threat to marine life and the environment in the East China Sea. The blockade of the oil spill area has had a certain impact on the transportation of the Shanghai Port. Fishing is likely to be banned for a long period of time within hundreds of kilometers of the accident and could cause economic damage to local fishermen along the coast.
Sources & Materials

[1] What's the impact of the East China Sea oil spill? | China Dialogue
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[2] Unique oil spill in East China Sea frustrates scientists
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[3] 1·6东海船只碰撞事故(1·6 East Sea vessel collision accident)
[click to view]

[4] 东海撞船事故原因与责任分析(Analysis on the causes and responsibilities of ship collision in the East China Sea)
[click to view]

[5] 桑吉号东海溢油:史上首次大规模轻油泄漏,日本南韩恐难逃污染(SANCHI tanker oil spill in the East China Sea: the first large-scale light oil spill in history, Japan and South Korea may not escape pollution)
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[6] 桑吉”轮漏油明显扩散,油污带已达58平方公里(The oil spill of the SANCHI wheel has spread obviously, and the oil spill zone has reached 58 square kilometers)
[click to view]

[7] “桑吉”轮倾覆溢油对东海海洋环境 危害究竟有多大?(How much harm does the SANCHI wheel overturn oil spill on the marine environment in the East China Sea?)
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[8] 一文读懂东海撞船漏油事故:海洋生态或受严重影响 附最新搜救消息!(Understand the East China Sea collision oil spill: ocean
[click to view]

[9] 'Fishing continued' after East China sea oil spill
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[10] East China Sea oil tanker disaster: what it means for the environment | World news | The Guardian
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Huge plumes of smoke were seen rising from the tanker
[click to view]

National Geographic: Why the Oil Tanker Explosion Would Be Such a Huge Disaster
[click to view]

Tanker and freighter collide off China
[click to view]

Other comments:A list of major similar disasters, most of them still missing in the EJAtlas.
Atlantic Empress, 1979, off Tobago, Caribbean, 287,000 tonnes
ABT Summer, 1991, off Angola, 260,000 tonnes
Castillo de Bellver, 1983, Off Saldanha Bay, South Africa, 252,000 tonnes
Amoco Cadiz, 1978, Off Brittany, France, 223,000 tonnes
Haven, 1991, Genoa, Italy, 144,000 tonnes
Odyssey, 1988, 700 nautical miles off Nova Scotia, Canada, 132,000 tonnes
Torrey Canyon, 1967, Isles of Scilly, UK, 119,000 tonnes
Sea Star 1972, Gulf of Oman, 115,000 tonnes
Irenes Serenade, 1980, Navarino Bay, Greece, 100,000 tonnes
Urquiola, 1976, La Coruna, Spain 100,000 tonnes
Meta information
Contributor:EnvJustice, ICTA-UAB/NWAFU master students
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3613
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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