Stormy weather continues to prevent firefighters from boarding an anchored cargo ship burning near Victoria, officials say.
Paul Barrett, planning section chief with the Canadian Coast Guard’s incident command post, said during a virtual media press conference Monday afternoon that the situation on MV Zim Kingston hasn’t changed much, with crews continuing their efforts throughout the night.
“Boundary cooling activities continued at the ship through the evening overnight and this morning. No substantial changes aboard Zim Kingston have been noted at this time,” he said.
The fire on MV Zim Kingston has been reduced to a smoulder, which the Canadian Coast Guard described as stable on Monday morning. A one nautical mile emergency zone remains in place around the anchored container vessel and multiple response vessels are stationed nearby, including offshore supply ship Maersk Tender.
Although salvage and firefighting crews are stationed nearby in hopes of boarding Zim Kingston, but according to Mariah McCooey, deputy federal incident commander, the stormy weather continues to prevent them from doing getting onto the vessel.
“Right now we’re looking at about gusting 30 knots of wind with so it’s quite windy and the waves are also significant, which is preventing the ability of the of the salvagers to transfer onto the ship,” McCooey said. “So we need to wait until that’s until that safe when it did get really windy last night.”
Officials are hopeful that crews can board Monday evening, once the weather lets up.
“Based on the current forecast, a weather window is expected this evening,” said Barrett.
The MV Zim Kingston was anchored at Constance Bank, about eight kilometres off the coast of B.C.’s capital, when a number of damaged shipping containers somehow caught fire Saturday morning.
“There’s certainly no more open flame visible on the ship, which is really positive,” McCooey said during Monday’s press conference, adding. “We still don’t know what the initial cause of the fire was. But this will be determined in the coming days.”
Sixteen crew members were safely taken off the ship, while five others, including the captain, have remained on board at their own behest. There have been no reported injuries and officials are hoping to keep it that way.
“The focus of everyone right now is harmonized around getting this situation under control, ensuring no loss of life, and limiting the damage to the environment,” said McCooey.
Prior to catching fire, MV Zim Kingston had been awaiting repairs after sustaining damage caused when 40 containers fell overboard off the coast of Bamfield in choppy waters Friday.
However, two of the ones that caught fire contained 52,080 kilograms of potassium amylxanthate — a compound that is often used in the mining industry as a mineral processing agent.
Due to the nature of the compound, crews have not been able to spray the containers directly and instead have resorted to spraying water on the hull and containers near the fire.
McCooey said an environmental unit has been established to monitor for any human or ecological impacts and stressed that there is “no risk” to residents in Greater Victoria.
“There are currently no impacts to human health for residents of Greater Victoria, but we’re obviously continuing to monitor this situation,” said McCooey. “Based on the assessment so far, there aren’t any identified risks to marine species, and there aren’t any fisheries closures recommended at this time.”
Island Health continues to monitor the situation and air monitoring stations have been set up along Dallas Road and at the Esquimalt Lagoon, according to Zachary Scher, a provincial incident commander with the province’s ministry of environment.
“Air quality monitoring teams have focused efforts from Dallas Road to the Esquimalt shoreline in the Esquimalt Lagoon area to Ocean Boulevard,” explained Scher during Monday’s press conference. “Air quality monitoring teams are ensuring that there are no readings that indicate hazardous air quality for communities. Air quality monitoring is continuous and in real-time and air quality monitoring crews have not recorded any contaminants of concern at levels that are a risk to public health.”
How long the Zim Kingston and its toxic cargo will remain anchored in Victoria is also a mystery. McCooey said there have been discussions with the Port of Vancouver but that the decision on the ship’s final destination is more or less in the hands of Transport Canada.
“We’ve been talking to the Port of Vancouver, but this is very much under the purview of Transport Canada,” she said.
MV Zim Kingston is owned by Greece-based Danaos Shipping Company Ltd. and charted by Israeli-based Zim Integrated Shipping Services.