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China says it agrees to joint tanker collision probe with Panama, Iran, Hong Kong

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BEIJING, Jan 25 (Reuters) - The maritime authorities of China, Panama, Iran and Hong Kong on Thursday signed an agreement to jointly investigate a collision in the East China Sea that caused the worst oil ship disaster in decades, according to China's Ministry of Transport.

Investigation work will be organized by a joint team composed of representatives of all four signatories to the agreement, a brief statement from the ministry said.

The Panama-registered Sanchi tanker (IMO:9356608), run by Iran's top oil shipping operator, collided on Jan. 6 with the CF Crystal (IMO:9497050) about 160 nautical miles off the coast of China near Shanghai and the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta.

The Sanchi, which was sailing from Iran to South Korea, carrying 136,000 tonnes of condensate, an ultra light crude, sank on Jan. 14 after drifting ablaze for more than a week. The ship's crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis are believed to have been killed.

The black boxes for the Sanchi and the CF Crystal have been opened, the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) reported on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)