BEIJING One of China's biggest ports, Dalian, shut on Monday after an pipeline explosion triggered a major offshore oil spill, forcing a refinery to cut processing and importers to divert cargoes elsewhere.
The aftermath of the weekend fire could disrupt shipments of oil, iron ore and soy and add to pressure for stricter environmental standards in China, already reeling from a toxic copper mine leak in the south of the country which burst into headlines last week amid accusations of a cover up.
The fire began on Friday while a crude oil tanker was being off-loaded.
Nobody was hurt, but hundreds of firefighters battled for more than 15 hours to douse the fire, and state media said about 1,500 tonnes of oil had spilled into the sea, causing a 183 sq km (71 sq mile) slick, 50 sq km of which was "severe."
Of the 50 sq km area, 20 sq km had been cleaned up and 160 tonnes of oil had been collected by 6 p.m. (1000 GMT) on Monday the local government said in a statement. The clean up operation may take five days, it said, without giving a timeframe for the port.
As many as six Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs), or 12 million barrels of crude oil, are set to be diverted, shipping sources said, possibly to South Korea or any one of another half dozen VLCC terminals in China.
Dalian's Xingang oil port is home to a 19 million-barrel strategic petroleum reserve facility, one of China's four state storage bases already in operation, as well as commercial storage run by CNPC and PetroChina that may be even bigger.