Good morning. It’s James Keller.
Three weeks ago, a fire aboard a cargo ship off Vancouver Island prompted an urgent response to contain the blaze and recover more than 100 containers that fell into the ocean.
Most of those lost containers still have yet to be recovered. The ship – the MV Zim Kingston – remains anchored off the coast of Victoria as it waits for somewhere to dock and deal with its fire-damaged, rotting – and in some cases toxic – cargo.
The problem for the Zim Kingston is that the ship is running out of places to go. The Port of Vancouver has balked at offering a berth, and now the ship’s owners have asked the Port of Nanaimo to allow it to unload.
In the meantime, the fate of the remaining cargo is in limbo. Some of those containers are damaged by fire, creating a toxic hazard. Others contain food that is now rotting. And the remaining undamaged containers are trapped on the ship, waiting for a resolution.
The Transportation Safety Board is now investigating – a process that could take more than a year. The ship’s owner, Greece-based Danaos Shipping Co., declined to comment, citing the investigation.
In this weekend’s Globe, Justine Hunter details what happened when the ship caught fire and the frantic scramble that followed.
Recordings of marine radio, which captured dispatches between the ship’s crew and the Canadian Coast Guard, show that the fire was reported just after noon on Oct. 23 – a little more than 12 hours after the captain reported the ship had lost containers at sea.
Tug boats arrived with water cannons to attack the fire while some crew escaped to a Coast Guard lifeboat. The Coast Guard urged the captain to abandon ship, though he refused and remained on board to co-ordinate the firefighting efforts.
That decision appeared to pay off, as the Zim Kingston and most of its cargo were saved.
In the wake of the Zim Kingston fire, Ottawa has promised to extend leases for two tugs – the Atlantic Raven, which was involved in the response to the fire, and the Atlantic Eagle – to cover B.C.’s coastal waters with emergency-response capacity.
The contract was part of the Oceans Protection Plan, designed to allay concerns about the increased oil tanker traffic that will accompany the completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.