Container Ship Catches Fire After 40 Containers Lost Overboard

The Zim Kingston, a 2008-built 4,253 boxship, lost 40 containers overboard on Friday (22/10) in rough seas 70 km west of the Juan de Fuca Strait, which runs between Canada and the US south of Vancouver Island. The Coast Guards of both countries have issued warnings for ships in the area to watch for floating containers. They are also working together to monitor the containers.

The wild weather that led to the containers falling from the ship has been referred to as a ‘bomb cyclone’, which is when a storm’s minimum air pressure drops 24 millibars or more within 24 hours, known as bombogenesis.

The vessel anchored about 8km off the coast of Victoria, where some containers then caught fire on Saturday (23/10) at around 11 a.m. which were related to two damaged containers carrying hazardous materials.

The Canadian coast guard said that ten containers were on fire, including two carrying over 52,000 kgs of Potassium Amylxanthate, which is a “reactive flammable material” according to the Canadian Workplace Hazardous Information System.

The fire continued to burn into Sunday and with gale force winds predicted to hit the area, authorities closely monitored the air and water on the coast of the Greater Victoria area.

“All fires produce toxic substances. Incident Command has detailed information on the chemicals that were on fire and are now smouldering in the containers on board,” the Canadian Coast Guard said on Twitter.

Danaos Shipping, which manages the ship, told CBC News the fire “appears to have been contained.” ZIM Integrated Shipping Services, which operates the vessel, said the ship itself was not on fire.

“Danaos have commissioned a salvage and fire extinguishing agency to come on board in order to ensure that conditions are appropriate for the safe return of the vessel’s crew,” the company said in a statement on Sunday.

Sixteen crew members had been evacuated from the ship, while five stayed on board to help with the fire-fighting effort.

Images sourced from USCG Pacific Northwest Twitter & Canadian Coast Guard Twitter

28th October Update:

The severity of this incident is worse than first reported, according to internal coast guard communications obtained by CTV News.

The emails sent on Tuesday evening show the cargo ship Zim Kingston’s owner underestimated the number of shipping containers that fell from the vessel during a storm.

Originally, the Canadian Coast Guard reported that 40 containers fell from the ship in heavy seas and high winds Friday, but now it appears there are more than 100 containers drifting off Vancouver Island.

“The owner now believes that 109 containers were lost in the initial event,” one email says.

The email also says that only two of the containers are believed to have dangerous goods inside them.

In a situation update late Wednesday morning, the coast guard confirmed that more than 100 containers were lost.

“It has now been determined that 106 containers fell overboard, not 40 as originally estimated via aircraft observation shortly after the incident,” the coast guard said.

The stricken Zim Kingston vessel remains anchored off Victoria.

The last time one of the drifting containers was spotted by a tracking flight was on Oct. 24 when the container was near Hesquiat Peninsula, northwest of Tofino, the communications show.

Due to vents on the containers that allow water in, the coast guard does not expect any of the boxes will be recovered.

“It is command speculation that containers will have already sunk or will sink,” a coast guard email says. “Command speculation does not expect any containers to be found / recovered at this point.”

The coast guard’s unifed command now has a list of contents from all containers identified as having gone overboard.

Contents include Christmas decorations, sofas, poker tables, metal car parts, clothing, toys, yoga mats, stand-up paddleboards, industrial parts and other miscellaneous items.

Information sourced from here.