A 900-foot crude tanker leaked oil into the ocean just outside China’s biggest refining center, raising the specter of environmental damage and disruption of shipments.
The A Symphony, a Suezmax tanker that’s capable of carrying about 1 million barrels of crude, was struck by a bulk carrier at an anchorage site off Qingdao port in the Yellow Sea, causing it to spill, 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 kilometers) away from the area, China’s 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 oil refiners that account for about a quarter of China’s total processing capacity. Spills can take months — even years — to clean up, and could also damage the area’s ecosystem as well the livelihoods of people who depend on the sea.
The leak 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 meters, suggesting it was full.
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.
The cargo on board is a bitumen mix, according to MTI Network, an external company representing the vessel’s technical manager Goodwood. It remains too soon to evaluate the size of the spill.