Tanker spills oil into sea off China’s key refining port

Qingdao Port in China Source: iStock

A Liberia-flagged tanker has spilled oil into the Yellow Sea, causing potential environmental damage and disruption off China’s largest crude-receiving terminal.

The A Symphony, a Suezmax tanker that’s capable of carrying about 1 million barrels of crude, was struck by a bulk carrier just off Qingdao port, causing it to spill oil in the sea, according to Goodwood Ship Management, the technical manager of the vessel. Nearby vessels are being instructed to stay at least 10 nautical miles (18.5 kilometres) away from the area, the Chinese maritime safety agency said in an alert on Tuesday.

All of the tanker’s crew have been accounted for and no injuries have been reported, the ship manager said in a statement. While local response experts have been deployed to contain the oil spill and begin clean up operations, the efforts are being hampered as the port is closed due to poor visibility, it said.

The spill could threaten operations at Qingdao port in Shandong province, the biggest crude-receiving terminal for the world’s largest importer and a hub for private refiners that account for about a quarter of China’s total processing capacity. Oil spills typically take weeks, if not months, to clean up, and could also damage the area’s ecosystem as well as livelihoods that depend on the sea.

The spill was at the emergency-response stage, and hadn’t yet reached the pollution-evaluation level, an official at the dangerous goods anti-pollution department at the Maritime Safety Administration said by phone. Calls to the Ministry of Transport went unanswered.

The vessel was most recently signaling Qingdao as its next destination, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. It had a draft of 17.1 metres, suggesting it was fully laden with oil.

Before heading to China, the ship had visited the waters off Malaysia’s Sungai Linggi, a popular spot for so-called ship-to-ship transfers in which oil is moved from one vessel to another. Such activities are sometimes carried out to transfer cargoes between vessels, or to obscure the origin of the oil on-board.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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