Commercial salvage and legal services are steering clear of the wreck removal of the tanker Pablo, which exploded in Malaysian waters, for fear of becoming entangled in sanctions.

That looks likely to complicate the salvage and wreck removal operation, with Malaysian authorities potentially left to deal with the costs and the carcass of the vessel.

The 96,700-dwt Pablo (built 1997) caught fire in the South China Sea early this month at an anchorage 75 km (47 miles) off Pulau Tinggi, close to the entrance of the Singapore Strait.