An oil tanker carrying about one million barrels of bitumen blend was involved in a collision near the Chinese port city of Qingdao during heavy fog, spilling oil into the Yellow Sea, Chinese maritime officials and tanker representatives said.
The collision involving the Liberian-flagged tanker A Symphony and the bulk carrier Sea Justice took place at 8:50 local time (00:50 GMT), A Symphony’s manager, Goodwood Ship Management, said in an email.
“The force of the impact on the port side of the bow caused a breach in the cargo and ballast tanks, with a quantity of oil lost to the ocean,” Goodwood said, adding that all crew had been accounted for and there were no injuries.
The owner of the Sea Justice could not be immediately contacted and the extent of the spill was also unclear, as operations to contain it were hampered by fog.
“The oil spill occurred after a collision between two vessels,” an official with China’s Shandong Maritime Safety Administration said on condition of anonymity, confirming that there were no injuries.
Heavy fog, which has made navigation difficult off the coast of Qingdao since Monday, led to poor visibility at the time of the collision, Goodwood said.
Emergency procedures have been put in place on board the vessel to limit any spill and the ship’s oil spill response team has been mobilized.
The incident was reported to local authorities and a clean-up operation has begun, although it was hampered by the port closure due to “zero visibility,” Goodwood said.
The Shandong Maritime Safety Administration has instructed other vessels to keep at least 10 nautical miles from the A Symphony, but has not given details on how much oil has leaked.
Tanker safety has improved in recent decades – partly thanks to the introduction of double-hulled vessels – and major spills are rare, although risks remain with the transport of oil by sea, which has the potential to cause major environmental damage.
The A Symphony, a Suezmax tanker, was last seen near the port of Qingdao, live navigation data from Refinitiv Eikon showed.
The tanker called at the Linggi International Transshipment Center near Malacca in Peninsular Malaysia earlier this month, where it was fully loaded with oil and set sail for China, the data showed.
An executive of Run Cheng International Resource (HK) Co said the company owned the 150,000-tonne cargo of bitumen blend on board the A Symphony.
Bitumen, a mixture of hydrocarbons from refining residues, is used for road and roof coatings. However, shipping industry sources noted that bitumen is usually transported in smaller vessels with specialized heating, rather than suezmaxes.
The 272-meter-long, 46-meter-wide tanker was sold in May 2019 to its new owners Symphony Shipholding SA and NGM Energy.