An Iranian oil tanker collided with a bulk freighter and caught fire off China's eastern coast, leaving 32 crew members missing, most of them Iranians, authorities say.

Chinese maritime authorities dispatched police vessels and three cleaning ships to the scene of the ship collision off the coast of east China.
Chinese maritime authorities dispatched police vessels and three cleaning ships to the scene of the ship collision off the coast of east China. (Reuters Archive)

An Iranian oil tanker collided with a bulk freighter and caught fire off China's eastern coast, leaving 32 crew members missing, most of them Iranians, authorities said Sunday.

The tanker, carrying 136,000 tonnes of oil condensate, caught fire following the collision Saturday night and its crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis were missing, the ministry said in a statement.

Chinese maritime authorities have dispatched eight ships for the search and rescue operation and South Korea has sent a plane and coastguard ship to help, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The Panama-registered tanker was sailing from Iran to South Korea when it collided with the Hong Kong-registered freighter CF Crystal 257 kilometres (160 miles) from shore late Saturday, the Ministry of Transport said.

The tanker was still ablaze Sunday, with images broadcast by state television channel CCTV showing the ship in the grip of an intense fire, enveloped in clouds of black smoke.

The second vessel involved was a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship carrying 64,000 tonnes of grain.

The other vessel had been damaged but "without jeopardising the safety of the ship" and all its 21 Chinese crew had been rescued, it added.

It wasn't immediately clear what caused the collision.

Source: AP