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Contractor hired to recover overboard containers floating off Vancouver Island

Thermal cameras being used to find remaining hot spots on the MV Zim Kingston
Crews keep surrounding containers and the hull of the MV Zim Kingston cool while fires continue to smoulder aboard the ship. (Canadian Coast Guard/Twitter)

The Canadian Coast Guard says the owner of a ship that lost 109 containers overboard in stormy weather last week has hired a contractor to try to recover the bins loaded with cargo.

It says in a statement that a salvage team was using thermal cameras to find remaining hot spots on the MV Zim Kingston after some of the containers caught fire last weekend. Active firefighting operations continued Thursday in containers that hold tires, it said.

Five containers have been spotted at the very northern tip of Vancouver Island, more than 400 kilometres away, but two containers carrying hazardous materials were not among them. The coast guard says trajectory modelling shows the containers that were still floating will continue to drift north.

Cargo in the containers include industrial and car parts, Christmas decorations, sofas, poker tables, clothing, toys, yoga mats, stand-up paddle boards and other everyday items.

The coast guard said air samples taken along the Greater Victoria waterfront show no negative effects from the ship.

“Once the initial response to the MV Zim Kingston is complete, the Transportation Safety Board may conduct an investigation into the incident, including why the ship lost containers during the storm and why some of the remaining containers caught on fire. Right now the highest priority continues to be putting the fires out and ensuring the remaining containers are secure before the ship is moved to port for unloading.”

The Transportation Safety Board says it is gathering information on the incident and assessing the scope of the investigation it may conduct.

Darrel Wilson, a spokesman for Danaos, which manages the ship registered in Greece, said the master of the vessel ordered the evacuation of 16 members while he and other key personnel remained on board to try and put out a fire among some of the containers. Danaos commissioned a team of marine firefighters to ensure conditions were appropriate for the safe return of the vessel’s crew, he said.

Transport Canada said in a written statement that after the ship reported losing some containers in heavy seas on Friday, the master requested an anchorage from the Pacific Pilotage Authority and was allocated one at Constance Bank, about 7.5 kilometres (four nautical miles) south of Victoria.

The agency said that anchoring is a common right in Canada and that a ship is generally free to anchor temporarily and for a reasonable time in any location deemed appropriate.

Peter Lahay, national spokesman for the International Transport Workers Federation, said about five crew members stayed on board the ship to hose down the containers while the rest of the crew were taken to a hotel in Victoria before returning on Tuesday.

—Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

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