Fire on cargo ship MV Zim Kingston nearly out, officials say


Officials are ready should an oncoming storm cause any problems to an anchored cargo ship that caught fire near Victoria and continues to burn.

JJ Brickett, a federal incident commander and spokesperson with the Canadian Coast Guard, said during a virtual media press conference Sunday afternoon that the fire burning on the MV Zim Kingston has mostly been extinguished.

“What we are seeing on the deck here is basically the shell of those containers, and presumably, everything that was aboard or inside those containers has been consumed in the fire,” he said.

The MV Zim Kingston has been anchored at Constance Bank since Friday night after it lost 40 shipping containers about 12 nautical miles off the west coast of Vancouver Island, near Bamfield, while travelling through rough seas.

It will remain at Constance Bank overnight Sunday alongside emergency tow vessels and the Canadian Coast Guard who will be monitoring the vessel as a significant storm is expected to move through the region.

During Sunday’s virtual press conference, Brickett said plans are in place and crews are ready should the approaching storm — dubbed a “bomb cyclone” by meteorologists — exacerbate the situation onboard MV Zim Kingston.

“We’ve been monitoring, both from shore and on board, if she is moving — she has not,” Brickett said. “And then in the unlikely event that she does move her anchor, we have numerous salvage tugs, including a Coast Guard asset that are around and there’s precautions taken onboard so that a tow can effectively be made very rapidly.”

The Canadian Coast Guard was first alerted to the blaze Saturday morning after some damaged shipping containers on board the Malta-flagged ship caught fire. As many as 10 shipping containers caught fire throughout Saturday, including two filled with more than 52,080 kilograms of potassium amylxanthate — a compound that is often used in the mining industry as a mineral processing agent.

Officials also addressed concerns about the air quality as a result of the fire, saying there is ongoing monitoring from multiple nearby locations and that there is no risk to those onshore.

“Air quality monitoring is set up … on shorelines and on vessels to monitor contaminants of concern for health, the public and responders and Island Health is monitoring the situation at this time,” said Zachary Scher, a provincial incident commander with the province’s ministry of environment, during Sunday’s press conference. “There’s no concern of harm to Islanders.”

Sixteen of the 21 total crew members were evacuated from the ship Saturday while the remaining five stayed onboard overnight to help fight the fire overnight and continue to remain onboard. Brickett explained that the plan of attack was to allow the containers on fire to burn until there was nothing left.

“What they were attempting to do is let the fire burn down. In other words, the container consumes itself with the fuel while keeping everything else around it cool so they wouldn’t ignite,” he said. “When we are looking at the imagery, we can’t see any scorching or charring of those adjacent containers. That’s a really good sign.”

RELATED: 5 crew members remain onboard as ship fire continues to burn, emergency zone extended

It’s unclear exactly how many containers burned or what was inside all of them, according to Brickett, who also said one container fell into the water.

“There was a container that was over the sides, we assume that that was the one that went into the water last night. To the extent that it has any product onboard. We assume probably not given the violence of the fire at the time,” he said. “But we know where the location of that container is.”

Although the ship itself never caught on fire, a 2 nautical mile emergency zone has been established around the anchored container vessel and mariners continue to be told to stay clear of the area. Two other cargo vessels that were anchored nearby were moved Saturday night for safety reasons.

“Looking at the type of operations that would be taking place around the stricken vessel, we moved them from their anchorage … and as I understand that it, they are slowly traversing up and down the strait while we find them suitable anchorage,” said Bricket.

Prior to anchoring near Victoria, the 13-year-old Malta-flagged vessel was on its way to Vancouver after leaving port in Busan, South Korea earlier this month, according to, a website that tracks the movement of ships and other vessels worldwide. Brickett said the vessel had to anchor near Victoria following the loss of shipping containers in order to undergo repairs.

“This vessel had experienced some damage on her approach to Vancouver. She was in contact with the Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada, the inspection group,” Brickett explained. “It was assessed as to what happened off the approaches to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and then she was placed at anchorage, here to effect repairs and then await further Transport Canada interventions.”

MV Zim Kingston is owned by Greece-based Danaos Shipping Company Ltd. and charted by Israeli-based Zim Integrated Shipping Services. Danos has also hired Resolve Marine Group to carry out local salvage operations, including fire suppression as part of the response.

Brickett on Sunday praised MV Zim’s owners for not only being “very responsible” but for doing the “right things” since the situation began.

“They’ve engaged the salvage very quickly, and have activated local resources,” he said.

Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod
Hannah LepineHannah Lepine

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