Officials are determined to not only find out what is inside but recover shipping containers that fell from the MV Zim Kingston cargo vessel earlier this week.
MV Zim Kingston lost 40 shipping containers about 12 nautical miles off the west coast of Vancouver Island, near Bamfield, during rough seas Friday morning.
The 13-year-old Malta-flagged vessel was on its way to Vancouver from Busan, South Korea when the incident took place, forcing it to anchor at Constance Bank where it later caught fire.
Since the containers fell overboard, the Canadian Coast Guard along with other federal agencies have been monitoring and tracking them, with overflight observations regularly being conducted by Transport Canada’s National Air Surveillance program.
JJ Brickett, a federal incident commander and spokesperson with the Canadian Coast Guard, said during a virtual media press conference Sunday afternoon that the containers are somewhere between 20 to 27 nautical miles offshore.
“We had a report confirming those locations by a ship earlier today,” he said.
Federal agencies have also been working alongside the U.S. Coast Guard, who dropped a data marker buoy in the spot where they fell in an effort to find the containers, according to Brickett.
“That floats and sends signals picked up by satellites that relays back to our ops center. So, we are tracking that very accurately,” he said.
The contents inside the missing containers is somewhat of a mystery. Two of as 10 containers that caught on fire contained 52,080 kilograms of potassium amylxanthate — a compound that is often used in the mining industry as a mineral processing agent.
However, Brickett said it appears only two containers that fell in the water Friday contained materials that “we would be concerned” about.
But what exactly is inside those containers or the other ones in the sea is not fully known. Brickett said efforts to read labels on the lost containers have been challenging and unsuccessful but officials aren’t giving up.
“One of one of the objectives for the response is 100 per cent accountability for all of these containers,” he said. “Where are they? What happened to them? What was in them? And … how we can we recover them?”
The Canadian Coast Guard has been leading an incident command post on behalf of the federal and provincial governments and First Nations representatives and is coordinating a multi-agency response to the fire.
Brickett said the Canadian Coast Guard is also taking “very purposeful measures” to communicate with all of the First Nations along the west coast of Vancouver Island about the lost shipping containers. He said there was a “coordination” call on Sunday with some First Nations, but not all of them and acknowledged that “we can probably do better and get more” on the next call.
“The intent is to reach all of them,” Brickett said.
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.
Hazardous materials firefighters are expected to board the ship to fight any remaining fires, the Canadian Coast Guard said in a post late Sunday.
— USCGPacificNorthwest (@USCGPacificNW) October 23, 2021