Maritime officials say they’re seeing progress in the battle against a hazardous fire aboard a cargo ship moored near Victoria.
The fire was reported in damaged containers aboard the MV Zim Kingston on Saturday morning and is believed to have spread to at least 10 containers, two of which held potassium amylxanthate, a chemical used in mining operations.
In a Sunday briefing, the Canadian Coast Guard incident command said there had been a reduction in smoke and flames coming from the ship.
“The majority of the fire is actually out. We still see it smouldering,” JJ Brickett, federal incident commander with the Canadian Coast Guard, said.
“What (the crew) were attempting to do is let the fire burn down, in other words, (allow) the container to consume itself with the fuel while keeping everything around it cool so they wouldn’t ignite.”
Brickett said the latest overflight suggested little to no scorching or charring on adjacent containers.
Multiple vessels have been spraying the Zim Kingston to keep it cool but haven’t been able to attack the flames directly due to the hazardous nature of the chemicals. A hazardous materials firefighting team likely won’t be able to board the vessel until Monday, Brickett said.
Danaos Shipping Co, the company which manages the Zim Kingston, said in a statement Sunday that the fire “appears to have been contained,” and that a salvage and fire extinguishing agency had come aboard to ensure crew could return safely.
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U.S.-based Resolve Marine Group for salvage operations, including firefighting and recovery of the containers, according to the coast guard.
Brickett said the ship would face multiple inspections by official once immediate safety and seaworthiness concerns had been resolved.
The update came as a powerful “bomb cyclone” weather system approached the region, with winds forecast of up to 70 km/h.
Incident command said they were closely monitoring the Zim Kingston, which so far had not moved from its anchor about eight kilometres south of Victoria, and that multiple salvage tugs were standing by to move it in the case of an emergency.
The coast guard moved to evacuate most of the vessel’s crew Saturday night, with no injuries reported, and a no-fly order and two-nautical-mile emergency zone were in place around the Zim Kingston on Sunday.
Zachary Scher, provincial incident commander with the environment ministry, said officials were monitoring ecological impacts, adding there was currently no risk to Vancouver Island residents from the smoke plume emanating from the vessel.
Chamber of Shipping president Robert Lewis-Manning said he will be closely watching the salvage operation that unfolds in the coming days, along with the longer-term probe into the fire and the damage it sustained in a storm Thursday.
“The vessel will have to undergo inspections before it can be moved, and the owner of the vessel is working with a salvage company to deal with the damage the ship has sustained and how that will be resolved. That ship will have to be unloaded in a very deliberate matter.
“The part I’ll be most interested in, maybe not in the coming days, but in the coming weeks and months is the investigation and the review of what’s happened to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again, or if it does happen we’re as best as possible prepared.”
The MV Zim Kingston is the same vessel that lost between 35 and 40 containers during rough seas west of Vancouver Island on Thursday, two of which also contained hazardous materials.
Brickett said provincial and federal officials were working with First Nations along the west coast of Vancouver Island, but that no effort could be made to retrieve the containers until a break in the approaching storm.
The U.S. Coast Guard continues to track those containers, which were last charted about 12 nautical miles off the coast of Vancouver Island, near Bamfield.
Officials are warning the containers could be a “significant risk” to mariners.
With files from the Canadian Press and Reuters