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Crews, firefighters board ship to assess damage and next moves: Coast Guard

Tuesday, October 26th 2021, 8:48 pm - Environment Canada modelling shows smoke plume dispersing before reaching populated area near Victoria, B.C.

The company responsible for the cargo ship incapacitated near Victoria, B.C., on Saturday, after several containers carrying toxic material caught fire, says a team has now boarded the Zim Kingston to assess the damage.

On Monday, the Canadian Coast Guard granted permission to the team which included seven crew members of the vessel and a number of firefighters, according to a statement from management company Danaos Shipping Co.

During a media briefing Tuesday, the federal incident commander with the Canadian Coast Guard said the immediate concern is stabilization on the ship.

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"As we reported, the flames are out, containers are still smoldering with crews so close to them. They know which ones are hot and are going to want to take a look inside of it," JJ Brickett said.

Zim Kingston/Canadian Coast Guard Twitter (Canadian Coast Guard/Twitter)

It could still take several days to fully suppress the hot spots inside the containers, according to the chief of the unified command, Paul Barrett.

The ship first ran into trouble on Oct.22, when it lost 40 of its shipping containers in rough waters, 70 kilometres west of the Juan de Fuca Strait, which separates Washington state and Vancouver Island.

The Coast Guard said at the time the MV Zim Kingston was carrying more than 52,000 kilograms of xanthates, which includes potassium amylxanthate, housed in two of the containers that were on fire aboard the ship.

Potassium amylxanthate is listed as a "reactive flammable material" by the Canadian Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System.

The compound, which is used in mining, is classified by the U.S. government as "spontaneously combustible." Potassium amylxanthate is also toxic to marine life.

SMOKE DISPERSING

As of Tuesday, the Coast Guard identified three burning containers still smouldering on deck.

mv-zim-kingston A cleanup vessel responds to the fire onboard the MV Zim Kingston on Monday. (Canadian Coast Guard/Twitter)

Company Danaos says modelling from Environment Canada indicates the toxic smoke plume is dispersing before it reaches any populated areas.

Brickett added that once crews on board have established if there are any internal fires in those containers, and what's inside them, then Coast Guard will be able to determine the next move.

"Parallel to all of this are discussions that are going to take place as to where [the Zim Kingston] will wind up," Brickett said.

The company said it has been working closely with local authorities and following all actions necessary to mitigate the consequences of the incident.

The contents of the 40 lost containers remains unknown, however, the Coast Guard said it believes some of the 20-foot long boxes have been spotted in the water at the northern tip of Vancouver Island near Cape Scott.

Anyone with information or sightings of the containers is asked to call 1-800-889-8852.

This article was originally published by CBC News on Oct 26, 2021.

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