It's possible that oil from an Iranian tanker that sunk off the coast of China last month has reached the coast of Japan, maritime officials said.
The Sanchi was carrying about one million barrels of a light form of crude oil called condensate from Iran to South Korea when it crashed into a Chinese freighter on Jan. 6. Sanchi burned for more than a week before it sank Jan. 14, sealing the fate for the estimated 29 crew members still on board.
Yutu Nishikawa, a spokesman for the Japanese Coast Guard, told The Japan Times there were fears that some of the oil from the sunken vessel may have reached the coast of several southern Japanese islands.
"Right now, there is no official confirmation yet that the oily substances are from the tanker, but we'll continue to monitor the situation," he was quotedas saying.
Greenpeace International's Paul Johnston said it seems "likely" that oil washing up on the southern Japanese island of Takarajima was from Sanchi.
"In order to confirm that it is from the Sanchi, it would need to be analytically 'fingerprinted' against a sample of the fuel oil taken from the site where the tanker went down," he said in a statement. "It may be emulsified bunker oil, but it may also be heavy residue from the condensate: it will be impossible to tell until testing is done."
Johnston added that some maritime species may have already been contaminated.
An Iranian committee set up to examine what happened to the vessel said it was looking at black box data last week.
The worst maritime spill of this kind occurred when 2.1 million barrels of oil leaked from the Atlantic Empress off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago in 1979.
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This article has been adapted from its original source.
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