Crews hope to board burned ship off Victoria

by The Canadian Press (CPSTF)

An official with the Canadian Coast Guard says an opportunity is expected Monday evening for crews to board a container ship smouldering off the coast of Victoria.

Paul Barrett says Resolve Marine salvage and firefighting crews are at the scene, but a storm had prevented anyone from boarding the MV Zim Kingston.

He told a news briefing Monday the forecast suggested a “weather window” would open for crews to board the ship carrying at least 10 containers that caught fire Friday.

Some of the units contained hazardous materials, though Barrett says ongoing air quality monitoring at locations along the Victoria waterfront found no negative results.

Barrett says a flyover Monday showed no visible flames, though the salvage master has indicated there are still pockets of fire and some containers have “internal fires” as crews spray water on the containers and the ship’s hull to keep it cool.

Another 40 containers fell overboard and Barrett says they’re drifting north off the coast of Vancouver Island, where a wind warning remained in effect Monday.

The Kingston had reported damage as it approached Vancouver and it anchored for repairs in the Strait of Juan de Fuca before reporting the fire to the coast guard.

Mariah McCooey, the coast guard’s deputy federal incident commander, told the briefing the initial cause of the fire is not yet known and is being investigated.

“When it did get really windy (Sunday) night, you know, we were definitely keeping a close eye on it to make sure that the additional oxygen flowing in there didn’t reignite some of the flames. It looks like that didn’t happen, so that’s really good.”

An environmental unit has been set up to monitor any ecological impacts and recommend strategies for preventing and mitigating harm, McCooey says.

“Based on the assessment so far, there aren’t any identified risks to marine species. There aren’t any fisheries closures recommended at this time.”

Asked about the chemical stored in some of the containers, provincial incident commander Zachery Scher says potassium amyl xanthate is used in mining.

“It is water soluble, not expected to be persistent in the environment and any aquatic impacts are expected to be acute and near the source of discharge.”

Owners are responsible for their vessels under Canadian law, McCooey says, adding that the owner of the Greek-based Zim Kingston has been co-operating with authorities.

Gillian Oliver, also with the coast guard, says they’re tracking the drifting containers and the ship’s owner has contracted a local company equipped to deal with any hazardous material or debris that may come ashore, though that’s not expected.

The owner will begin salvaging lost containers once weather permits, she says.

Oliver says the containers slipped off when the ship was “heeled,” or angled during inclement weather.

The Kingston’s 1,800-page cargo manifest shows a variety of goods and the owner is working with officials to determine which containers were affected, she says.