A tugboat pours water on the container ship Zim Kingston after it caught fire off the coast of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada October 25, 2021. Canadian Coast Guard/Handout via REUTERS.

Number of Boxes Lost from ZIM Kingston Increases to Over 100 as Fire Reported Under Control

Mike Schuler
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October 27, 2021

The number of boxes reported missing from ZIM Kingston increased to more than 100 as officials report the fire is under control.

The Canadian Coast Guard working with other agencies, a salvage team and private vessels are continuing to respond to the fire on board ZIM Kingston off Victoria, British Columbia, as well as lost containers off of Vancouver Island.

An update Wednesday from the Coast Guard indicated that the fire is now under control and crews have been able to safely access the container bays on the ship.

Perhaps the biggest news is that the Coast Guard now believes that 109 containers went overboard initially during heavy weather last week, almost triple the 40 previously reported. However, the number of containers with hazardous goods (2) has not changed.

The lead photo at the top of this story, taken Monday, you can see fire burning in one of the forward bays, plus container stacks collapsed in two other bays both forward and after of the superstructure.

To recap the last few days, after riding out Sunday night’s storm at anchor an overflight of the ZIM Kingston late Monday morning showed the fire was still smoldering but no visible flames coming from the containers. A specialized salvage team from Resolve Marine spent most of the day waiting for a weather window to board the ship.

By Tuesday morning, six “firefighters” were able to board the ship along with seven returning crew members, joining the Captain and four others who have remained with the vessel throughout the incident.

The Canadian Coast Guard said the Salvage Master and team would assess the situation and could estimate that it may take several days to fully suppress any smoldering and fires inside containers.

Since the incident involves hazardous materials, public health and safety has been an ongoing concern. However, the Environmental Unit in Unified Command indicated on Tuesday that air monitoring readings taken during Monday’s storm at 32 sites were all below detection limits.

A tugboat pours water on the container ship Zim Kingston after it caught fire off the coast of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada October 25, 2021. Canadian Coast Guard/Handout via REUTERS.

Once the fire is extinguished, the salvage team is expected to secure the containers with an environmental team monitoring and ready to respond to any marine pollution. From there, the ship will head to a port or location that is still to determined for additional inspections.

“Once the ship is secured, Transport Canada inspectors will inspect the ship and then direct it to a port (not determined yet) for unloading and any further inspections. There may be changes to this process depending on the results of each step,” the Coast Guard in a Twitter update.

As for the containers lost west of the Straits Juan De Fuca last week, the Unified Command continues to monitor and plan for recovery as they make their way up the coast of Vancouver Island on a northwest trajectory parallel to the island. As we noted earlier, the 40 originally reported lost overboard has been increased to 109 containers.

The Coast Guard said the contents of containers on the ship include toys, clothing, automotive parts, industrial parts and furniture. The Unified Command expects that some of the containers have sunk and the Environmental Unit will assess for potential impacts.

Image provided by the Incident Command showing the tracking of containers near Vancouver, Island. Courtesy Canadian Coast Guard

“The owner of the #ZimKingston is working with Incident Command to find & recover the containers, but ongoing stormy weather and large swells continue to complicate their recovery. Modelling shows that the containers may reach #CapeScott on Northern Vancouver Island,” the Coast Guard said in an update Tuesday afternoon.

The Coast Guard added that there is a possibility of containers washing up on the beach and, due to the hazardous contents of some of the containers, advised members of the public to avoid opening or moving them. Rather, the public should call 1-800-889-8852 immediately.

However, as of Wednesday said “No containers or debris have been reported on shore, however the National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP) and our helicopters will be searching today, depending on weather,” the Coast Guard said Wednesday. An update from the Coast Guard later in the day said four containers have been located on shore near Cape Scott and planning for recovery is underway.

Looking at AIS data from MarineTraffic.com, we can see which vessels continue to respond to the incident. This includes the Maersk Supply Services’ anchor handling tug (AHTS) Maersk Tender, which happened to be in the area thanks to its work The Ocean Cleanup Project, along with the tug Seaspan Harrier and Canadian Coast Guard emergency offshore towing vessel Atlantic Raven. There also appears to be the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Calgary, as well as the HMZS Te Mana, a frigate with the Royal New Zealand Navy. Te Mana has been undergoing upgrades at Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards in British Columbia.

The M/V ZIM Kingston was initially reported to have lost about 40 containers west of the entrance to the Straits of Juan De Fuca sometime last Thursday or earlier Friday morning. The ship continued to the Constance Bank where it anchored a few miles from Victoria. The fire was first reported Saturday morning in a bay of containers in the forward part of the ship. Firefighting was mostly limited to boundary (hull) cooling due to the involvement of hazardous goods.

Of the ship’s 21 crew members, 16 non-essential crew were evacuated from the ship on Sunday, leaving the Captain and four others. No injuries have been reported.

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