More than 100 shipping containers plunged from a cargo ship into the sea off the coast of Vancouver Island last week and now some of them have reached shore, officials say.
The Canadian Coast Guard confirmed during a live briefing Wednesday that MV Zim Kingston cargo lost 109 containers when it encountered rough seas back on Oct. 22 near Bamfield. The 13-year-old Malta-flagged cargo vessel was on its way to Vancouver from South Korea when the incident happened.
Mariah McCooey, deputy federal incident commander, explained that the updated figure comes following more overflights and information provided by the ship’s crew.
“It’s now been determined that 109 have gone overboard, not the 40 that was originally estimated via aircraft observation and crew reports,” she said.
Earlier in the day, the Canadian Coast Guard had pegged the number at 106 containers. McCooey acknowledged that there have been some discrepancies in the number of lost containers, but stressed that the current count, based on the latest information is 109.
“Right now, our best count is 109. This is still an ongoing challenge, of course, and it could change,” she said.
According to McCooey, 28 containers were identified in the sea on Saturday and another 14 were identified on Sunday but no other containers were located Monday or Tuesday. She said at that time, officials figured that might be more but weren’t sure.
“After two days of seeing nothing, we did definitely start to think that maybe we wouldn’t see them. But of course, that’s just speculative,” she said.
Although many of Zim’s lost containers continue to drift along the west coast of northern Vancouver Island — near Cape Scott Provincial Park — some of them are likely now at the bottom of the sea.
“We expect that at least some of them have sunk. They’re out there being battered in heavy seas,” said McCooey. “The watertight integrity is not that great. So there’s, there’s a good chance that a lot of them have already sunk.”
McCooey also confirmed that at least three have reached Cape Scott’s shoreline.
“We have a coast guard helicopter on scene working to identify the containers there and determine, match that up with our list of contents,” she said.
There were close to 2,000 onboard the Zim Kingston, with a thousand of those being on the upper deck., and at least two containers that went overboard contained hazardous materials — potassium amylxanthate and thiourea dioxide. The contents inside the remaining ones at sea include Christmas decorations, metal car parts, clothing, toys, yoga mats, stand-up paddle boards, and industrial parts, according to officials.
“We are still doing an ongoing analysis of whether there are environmental impacts or risks of any of the other things in those containers aside from the dangerous goods,” said McCooey.
McCooey said a salvage company hired by Danos is working on a plan to retrieve the containers and urged people not to go near them.
“We definitely need people to stay away from them,” she said.
The MV Zim Kingston cargo vessel is owned by Greece-based Danaos Shipping Company Ltd. and charted by Israeli-based Zim Integrated Shipping Services. It is currently anchored at Constance Bank, near Victoria, where damaged containers caught fire and have continued to burn since Saturday.
During Wednesday’s update, Paul Barrett, planning section chief with the Canadian Coast Guard’s incident command post, told reporters that firefighting efforts continue onboard the MV Zim Kingston.
“The salvage team is continuing to monitor general area temperatures to establish heat trends on board the vessel to support identifying hotspots,” he said.
Barrett said that during the overnight hours, there were “flare-ups” inside a number of containers onboard the vessel.
“Overnight during overhaul operations, there were flare-ups inside isolated ISO containers. flare-ups were attacked by the firefighting team and did not spread,” he said.
Samples of the air quality continue to be taken along the Victoria and Esquimalt shorelines, according to Barrett, who said more than a hundred such samples have come back negative in the past 24 hours.
“Air monitoring continues to show no negative readings, a total of 106 air samples were taken along the Victoria waterfront over the past 24 hours,” he said.
It will be some time before the cause of the fire is identified according to Canadian Coast Guard officials, who said Wednesday that employees with Transport Canada will eventually conduct an inspection of the stricken vessel.
“Once it is safe to do so, Transport Canada will inspect the vessel for compliance with the Canada Shipping Act 2001 and international conventions. This includes an examination of vessel records and documentation and a physical inspection of the vessel,” said Barrett.
Officials have said it could be days before the vessel is moved to a new location.
Canadian Coast Guard officials holding another live briefing regarding #MVZimKingston right now.
Officials say the 1 nm emergency zone around the ship remains in place. pic.twitter.com/tYyamXWX64
— Nicholas M. Pescod (@npescod) October 27, 2021
FYI… If you’re transiting off the coast of Vancouver Island and spot a container, please call the number below: https://t.co/DBnHk27UA1
— USCGPacificNorthwest (@USCGPacificNW) October 27, 2021