Kim Seung-Ho, ambassador of S. Korea to Iran

Proper way to remember Sanchi sailors 

January 23, 2018

Days ago, I was invited to attend at the Condolence Ceremony held in Shaheed Motahari High School for the tragically fallen heroes of the Sanchi. Sitting among the Iranians, I felt vividly their fathomless sorrow and grief emanated from the extraordinary emptiness of loss and sympathy.

The reason why I was invited to the ceremony was that South Korea was one of rescue teams, I presume. I can only imagine the Korean rescuers’ sense of helplessness on the site when immense flame engulfed the ship. I was informed that the roaring fire and fume effectively foiled the desperate efforts of all rescuers from China, Japan and Korea. The trilateral teamwork and spirit was high but simply the heat was too hot and the smoke was too thick. Encircled among Iranians in mourning, I feel sorry that not even a single crew was able to be brought home. 

The ship now lies in state in the deep seabed with the brave Iranian seamen. The sky once mostly covered by the pitch-black smoke returned to its normal cobalt blue. If the spilt oil will be either cleaned up or evaporated soon, there will be no more trace, at least on the surface, of the disaster. As time goes by, our grief will become diluted and normal life will appear to resume. The sea lanes will be crowded with many local and foreign, big and small vessels again, putting Sanchi and its crews in memory. Is this the way the story ends? No. It shall not. The sailors deserve more at least for the part of Korea.

At the time of collision, Sanchi, fully loaded with more than one million barrels of oil, was on the way to South Korea. Korea has depended on longer than a half century the carriers like Sanchi for the daily management of its economy. The full load of Sanchi covers only for a couple of day’s consumption for Korea. To maintain the whole economy in shape, hundreds of Sanchi should ship oil from Iran to Korea every year. Since the delivery has been always punctual and continuous, we often take the oil for granted without realizing the toil of the persons engaged in the oil supply to Korea. Sanchi in a blaze clearly showed Koreans the risk that Iranian crew has to bear to keep the continuity and punctuality of oil on which our whole economy hinges. Koreans are tremendously indebted to the Iranian fleet that carries the highly flammable liquid that took its toll on the hardworking crew this time. It is no exaggeration to say their fortitude and seamanship is one of the cornerstones of Korean economy. We are more than partners but friends.

I reiterate our national condolence that was expressed by the foreign minister for the bereaved families and the Iranian people. We are deeply sorry for their loss and appreciate their service. We shall not make their sacrifice in vain. We have to start a new story in order that this tragedy shall not repeat, not only on the sea nearby Korea but also in each and every sea route all over the world.

Sanchi is a strong evidence of the high and inherent risk engaged in sailing large tankers. A minor shock is devastating enough to fire and sink them. Even now many fully loaded Sanchis are sailing high seas along with non-oil carriers with potential risk of collision. Concerted efforts are required in order to strengthen the safety of major and crowded sea lanes. Oil tankers shall not be left solely responsible for their safety. No matter how well armored with safety gadgets and experienced crew, the huge thus not agile tankers are always vulnerable. Something shall be done to make sure that oil tankers can set sail safe and sound. That is the proper way to remember Sanchi sailors.

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