Hazardous materials burning aboard container ship anchored off southern B.C.

by The Canadian Press (CPSTF)

The Canadian Coast Guard says a fire is continuing to burn in several containers aboard a cargo ship about eight kilometres off the coast of Victoria.

The Coast Guard says in a release that it received word late Saturday morning that a fire had broken out in 10 damaged containers aboard the MV Zim Kingston, which is now anchored in Constance Bank, and that two of the burning containers contain hazardous material identified as potassium amylxanthate.

The release notes that the ship itself is not on fire, but says an emergency zone has been set up for one nautical mile around the Zim Kingston, adding there is currently no safety risk to people on shore.

The Joint Rescue and Coordination Centre in Victoria says 16 crewmembers have been safely taken off the ship, while five others, including the captain, remain on board at their own behest.

Canadian Coast Guard spokeswoman Michelle Imbeau says an Incident Command Post led by the Coast Guard on behalf of the federal and B.C. government’s, as well as First Nations representatives, is coordinating a multi-agency response to the incident.

She says the Command Post is also working with the U.S. Coast Guard to monitor 40 containers that fell overboard from the Zim Kingston in choppy waters on Friday, and are currently floating about 12 nautical miles off the west coast of Vancouver Island, near Bamfield, B.C.

The Coast Guard says the containers, some of which contain hazardous material, pose a significant risk to mariners, and that with stormy weather in today’s forecast, recovering them may be a challenge.

It says a Hazmat crew from Vancouver is mobilizing and that the owner of the Zim Kingston has contracted the U.S. based Resolve Marine Group for salvage operations, including fire fighting as well as the recovery of the containers.

Resolve Marine has mobilized two vessels that are expected to be on site today.

The Canadian Coast Guard, meanwhile, says it is working through the Emergency Management BC network to broadcast public safety information as required.