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Sanchi's VDR, Wreck Inspection Planned

An underwater robot is planned to be sent to gather information on how to pull out Sanchi’s debris
Sanchi has been leaking fuel in the sea and the size of spill has exceeded 100 square kilometers.Sanchi has been leaking fuel in the sea and the size of spill has exceeded 100 square kilometers.

The voyage data recorder of Iranian oil tanker Sanchi will be examined in China in the next few days, a deputy at Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization said, as the country hopes the ship's black box will shed some light on one of the worst maritime incidents in recent history.

Panama-flagged Sanchi, owned by Iran's state tanker operator NITC, was hauling about 1 million barrels of condensate to South Korea when it collided with a cargo ship in the East China Sea. Sanchi eventually sank on Jan. 14 after burning for eight days and suffering several partial explosions.

"Sanchi's black box will be examined in three days by the representatives of Iran, China, Panama and the Swedish maker of the black box in the port of Shanghai," Hadi Haqshenas, deputy for maritime affairs at PMO, told ILNA on Saturday.

Chinese search and rescue teams have retrieved the ship's VDR and recovered three bodies from the 32 crew members aboard Sanchi, all presumed dead.

"This is not merely a decoding of Sanchi [incident]; the ship CF Crystal will also be simultaneously inspected," he said, referring to the freighter that collided with Sanchi en route from the United States to China, transporting some 64,000 tons of grain.

China has so far denied Iran's demand to inspect CF Crystal, saying that it requires Beijing's authorization.

The official added that an underwater robot is planned to be sent to probe the "structure of the wreckage", gathering information on how to pull out the debris from the bottom of the sea.

Fernando Solorzano, head of Panama’s Merchant Marine, also told Reuters there was no initial sign that the stricken ship was in breach of any security protocols. He added, though, that investigations could take months or even years to conclude.

Environmental Concerns

Sanchi has been leaking fuel in the sea and the size of spill has exceeded 100 square kilometers, according to figures released by the Chinese State Oceanic Administration.

Chinese authorities said four separate slicks had formed after the Panama-registered Sanchi tanker sank on Sunday, CNN reported.

Environmentalists and officials are worried the oil on board and fuel used to power the massive vessel could harm aquatic life for decades.

"The critical thing is to understand that when we put hydrocarbons into the oceans through events like this, it's going to affect a wide range of animals," said Jessica Meeuwig, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Western Australia.

"The collision site was within the Zhoushan shipping ground, considered to be one of the richest fishing grounds in China," Ma Jun, one of China's leading environmentalists, said.

"We still need to keep an eye on how these contaminants might be carried by the ocean flow to have the impact on the fishing ground."

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