The tanker carrying Iranian crude burst into flames after hitting the Chinese vessel off Shanghai on Saturday evening. Photo: AFP

Thirty-two people are missing after an Iranian oil tanker collided with a Chinese vessel off Shanghai late on Saturday.

The 32 crew-members were on board the Sanchi – a Panama-registered vessel carrying 136,000 tons of oil – which caught fire after the collision 160 nautical miles (296 km) off the coast.

There were 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis on the tanker, but all were missing as of Sunday, Chinese authorities said.

The Chinese vessel had been damaged but “the safety of the ship was not jeopardized” and all its 21 Chinese crew had been rescued, officials from the Ministry of Transport said.

The 274-meter-long tanker was still ablaze on Sunday and images on Chinese television showed huge clouds of smoke rising from the stricken vessel.

The tanker – carrying nearly a million barrels of oil, worth about US$60m – had been sailing to Daesan in South Korea from Kharg Island in Iran, according to Reuters shipping data.

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

Eight Chinese ships and a coast guard vessel from South Korea have been sent for the search and rescue operation, Xinhua news agency said. A plane was also sent to assist the relief effort.