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

UPDATED: 5 crew members remain onboard as ship fire continues to burn, emergency zone extended
Canadian Coast Guard/Twitter

Five crew members remain onboard a burning cargo vessel anchored near Victoria overnight.

The fire broke out on board the MV Zim Kingston, currently anchored in Constance Bank some eight kilometres away from Victoria, on Saturday morning.

The Canadian Coast Guard says a total of 10 containers are on fire as of 11 p.m. Saturday and that the blaze continues to spread, but that the ship itself is not on fire. They also say that 16 out of 21 total crew members have been evacuated from the ship and the remaining five stayed onboard overnight to help fight the fire.

According to a Facebook update Sunday, the Seaspan Raven tug boat cooled the hull of the ship by spraying it will cold water. The Canadian Coast Guard said the fire cannot be directly sprayed with water because of “the nature of the chemicals onboard the container ship.”

The vessel involved is the same ship that lost around 40 shipping containers 12 nautical miles off the west coast of Vancouver Island, near Bamfield, on Friday after it encountered rough seas.

A spokesperson with the Canadian Coast Guard told CHEK News in a series of e-mails that the fire began inside some damaged containers onboard the vessel. They also said that at around 6:30 p.m. Saturday six containers were on fire and that more 52,080 kilograms of potassium amylxanthate were stored inside two of the six containers.

Potassium amylxanthate is a compound that is often used in the mining industry as a mineral processing agent, according to the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information.

As a result, a 2 nautical mile emergency zone has been established around the anchored container ship as of Sunday, as it continues to burn and expel toxic gas and the Coast Guard has advised mariners to stay clear of the area.

RELATED: Coast Guard monitoring 40 adrift shipping containers off Vancouver Island

Michelle Imbeau, spokesperson with the Canadian Coast Guard, said in an additional statement released to the media late Saturday night, that there is currently no safety risk to people onshore but that the situation continues to be monitored.

“The CCGS Captain Goddard M.S.M and the tug Seaspan Raven are on site to monitor the situation overnight,” she said.

MV Zim Kingston’s owner has contracted Resolve Marine Group to carry out salvage operations, including fire fighting.

“Resolve Marine has mobilized two vessels that were currently local, the Maersk Tender and Maersk Trader, which have been contracted as part of the response. Crews are expected to be on-site on Sunday,” said Imbeau. “A hazmat crew from Vancouver is also mobilizing.”

The company has also been hired to help with the recovery of the 40 odd containers as both the U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian Coast Guard are working together to track the fallen containers.

“With a significant weather event arriving Sunday, recovery of the containers may be challenging,” said Imbeau. “Both the U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian Coast Guard continue to broadcast warnings as the containers pose a significant risk to mariners.”

Imbeau stressed that the safety of the crew and the responders on the water is paramount and that an incident command post led by the Canadian Coast Guard has been established to “manage and coordinate this multi-agency” response.

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 MarineTraffic.com, a website that tracks the movement of ships and other vessels worldwide.

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