VICTORIA — Some of the containers that caught fire on a cargo ship off Victoria contained hazardous materials, but air quality monitoring along the city’s waterfront had found no negative results, the Canadian Coast Guard said Monday.
A flyover of the MV Zim Kingston showed no visible flames, although a salvage master had indicated there were still pockets of fire and some containers had “internal fires,” Paul Barrett, an official with the coast guard, told a media briefing.
Crews had been spraying water on the containers and the ship’s hull to keep it cool while salvage and firefighting crews waited for calmer weather in order to board.
The coast guard was making plans for Resolve Marine crews to possibly board the ship Monday evening, when the stormy weather was forecast to change.
Another 40 containers that fell overboard were drifting north off the coast of Vancouver Island, where a wind warning was in effect Monday, Barrett said.
The Kingston had reported damage as it approached Vancouver and it anchored for repairs in the Strait of Juan de Fuca before reporting the fire to the coast guard.
Mariah McCooey, the coast guard’s deputy federal incident commander, told the briefing the initial cause of the fire was being investigated.
“When it did get really windy (Sunday) night, you know, we were definitely keeping a close eye on it to make sure that the additional oxygen flowing in there didn’t reignite some of the flames. It looks like that didn’t happen, so that’s really good.”
An environmental unit has been set up to monitor any ecological effects and to recommend strategies for preventing and mitigating harm, McCooey said.
“Based on the assessment so far, there aren’t any identified risks to marine species. There aren’t any fisheries closures recommended at this time.”
Asked about the chemical stored in some of the containers, provincial incident commander Zachery Scher said potassium amyl xanthate is used in mining.
“It is water soluble, not expected to be persistent in the environment and any aquatic impacts are expected to be acute and near the source of discharge.”
Owners are responsible for their vessels under Canadian law, McCooey said, adding that the owner of the Greek-based Zim Kingston has been co-operating with authorities.
Gillian Oliver, also with the coast guard, said they’re tracking the drifting containers and the ship’s owner has contracted a local company equipped to deal with any hazardous material or debris that may come ashore, though that’s not expected.
The owner will begin salvaging lost containers once weather permits, she said.
Oliver said the containers slipped off the ship when it was “heeled” or angled during inclement weather.
The Kingston’s 1,800-page cargo manifest shows a variety of goods and the owner was working with officials to determine which containers were affected, she said.
— By Brenna Owen in Vancouver.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2021.
The Canadian Press