Oil that reached islands in the Amami chain earlier this month is highly likely to have come from the sunken Iranian tanker Sanchi, the Japan Coast Guard said on Thursday.
Samples of oily matter that washed up on Feb. 8 on the shores of Okinoerabu and Yoron islands were found to be linked to Sanchi’s sinking, the coast guard said.
The Sanchi sank on Jan. 14 after colliding with a freighter on Jan. 6 in the world’s worst oil tanker disaster in decades.
“Oily matter that arrived at the shores of the two islands is extremely likely to be linked to the Sanchi tanker incident, considering the similarity of the oil and the fact that there has not been any marine disasters involving oil spills in the nearby sea area,” a coast guard official said.
Black clumps of oily matter first washed up on the shores of Takarajima on Jan. 28 and other matter has since arrived at 21 other islands that are part of a chain of islands that includes Amami-Oshima and Okinawa, areas famous for pristine beaches and reef systems.
The Sanchi, which the coast guard said was carrying about 810,000 barrels of condensate — an ultralight, highly flammable crude oil — sank after several explosions weakened the hull following the collision.
Most of the fuel evaporated after the ship caught fire.
The bodies of two sailors were recovered from the ship while a third body was pulled from the sea near the vessel. The remaining 29 crew members are presumed dead.
On Jan. 17, the Chinese government said the sunken tanker had created two oil slicks.
Japan’s Environment Ministry said in January it saw little chance that the spill would reach domestic shores.
Seawater samples taken from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2 at 14 different locations offshore detected no oil pollution from the sunken tanker, the coast guard said in a separate statement on Wednesday.