Storm off Canadian coast prevents efforts to board fire-hit ZIM Kingston

Adverse weather off Vancouver Island on the Canadian coast has been hampering efforts to board container ship ZIM Kingston (IMO 9389693), which over the weekend suffered a loss of 40 containers overboard and a fire in some containers remaining onboard. By October 25th the fire was reported as “largely contained”, but it was stated that bad weather meant that officials would not be able to determine the damage. The vessel is at anchor in the Strait of Juan de Fuca off Victoria.

An approaching “bomb cyclone” storm on the US West Coast was complicating efforts to assess what damage had occurred on the ship and surrounding marine ecosystem.

The fire was detected on October 23rd, causing 16 of the 21 crew to evacuate. The presence of hazmat materials in some of the container vessels meant that water could not be used to attack the flames, although cold water was sprayed onto the hull to keep the vessel at as low a temperature as possible and to prevent the fire from spreading to other containers. By Sunday October 24th the fire had been reduced to smouldering level, but at least 10 containers were said to have been burnt out. There was no scorching or charring of the adjacent containers. The firefighting tugs were continuing to cool on either side.

It was not clear if there might be water damage to the containers that had escaped the fire.

Several salvage tugs were nearby in case the vessel began to drift, with precautions made onboard so that any required tow could be expedited rapidly. Ships were nearby to monitor the vessel.

Of the 40 containers lost overboard, the US Coast Guard, which is coordinating with the Canadian Coast Guard over the incident, warned that floating containers posed a threat to other ships. The USCG warned that some of the metal containers were painted a dark blue and that they would be difficult to spot in current weather conditions. The containers have been drifting northwest, about 12nm off the coast of Vancouver Island.

The Canadian Coast Guard said that it had consulted with coastal First Nations communities to help in the recovery efforts for the lost cargo – some of which could also hold hazardous material. It added that any recovery would have to wait until the storm subsides.

The bad weather had prevented a salvage crew from Resolve Marine from boarding the ship on Monday. The ship is anchored several miles off the southern coast of Vancouver Island, in the province of British Columbia, Canada.

Ship manager Danaos Shipping Co said on Sunday that no injuries had been reported on board. Zim said that “firefighting tugboats continue to operate to prevent renewed flare-ups.”

Once an assessment of the vessel and cargo is done, the ship would probably head either to Vancouver or Nanaimo in order to offload containers, at which point a closer inspection of damages would be undertaken.

The province of British Columbia has not yet reported any environmental damage, although there was some concern about the potassium amylxanthate that was being carried in two of the containers that went overboard. Potassium amylxanthate has the potential, on exposure to water, to react and form a flammable gas.

2008-built, Malta-flagged, 40,030 gt Zim Kingston is owned by Balticsea Marine Inc care of manager Danaos Shipping Inc of Piraeus, Greece. It is entered with Swedish Club (Piraeus team) on behalf of Balticsea Marine Inc.