Container Ship En Route to Vancouver Loses Cargo, Catches Fire

Zim Kingston
The Zim Kingston, which lost 40 containers in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, moored near Victoria, British Columbia, on Saturday, Oct. 23. U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo.

U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard officials are continuing to monitor movement of shipping containers that tumbled off of the container ship Zim Kingston in rough seas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca as the vessel was en route to British Columbia from South Korea.

A U.S. Coast Guard report said that the incident occurred Friday, Oct. 22 during heavy swells 38 miles west of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and that initially the cargo was reported to be general containers with nothing dangerous. However, a preliminary report from the master of the Zim Kingston reported that two containers that went overboard contained hazardous material.

An Air Station Port Angeles crew was able to locate 35 of the containers, and deployed a self-locating datum marker buoy to monitor movement of the containers.

U.S. Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound received notification from Prince Rupert Marine Communication and Traffic Services at 2 p.m.. on Oct. 22 of the vessel losing its containers overboard. No injuries were reported regarding crew board the container ship.

Then at 11:11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23, Rescue Coordination Centre Victoria reported that two containers onboard the vessel were on fire. Sector Puget Sound and RCC Victoria arranged an overflight to monitor the area and Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles did an overflight and captured imagery. The Seattle Times reported that crew aboard the vessel initially were putting out the fire with water, but that they were advised not to use water due to the nature of hazardous materials in the containers that were on fire.

The Canadian Coast Guard identified that substance as potassium amyl xanthate, a compound biodegradable in water that’s used in the mining industry to separate ores. Safety information on the chemical says that when exposed to heat and moisture is may release flammable, explosive and poisonous carbon disulfide vapors.

The Coast Guard advised the captain and crew to abandon ship.

By Oct. 25, the Canadian Coast Guard reported that there were no visible flames in the containers, but the fire was still smoldering. The vessel is currently moored five miles from Victoria, British Columbia.

Captain Daniel Broadhurst, chief of incident management for the 13th Coast Guard District, said the U.S. and Canadian authorities and tribal partners would continue to monitor the situation and provide support as the situation develops.