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Around 40 shipping containers adrift off Washington coast; cargo ship catches fire near Victoria

KIRO Seattle logo KIRO Seattle 10/24/2021 Graham Johnson

Approximately 40 shipping containers were lost off a ship 43 miles west of the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Thursday, according to the United States Coast Guard. The boat, which is anchored near Victoria, B.C., caught fire Saturday morning and may need to be evacuated, according to Global News.

The inbound ship listed to its side due to rough seas and lost the containers over the side.

MV Zim Kingston burning near Victoria © Provided by KIRO Seattle MV Zim Kingston burning near Victoria

A helicopter was deployed from Port Angeles and only spotted eight containers.

“The helicopter put down a beacon so we can keep an eye on (the containers) and also let other vessels know to stay away from that area,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier.

Another Coast Guard official said two of the containers contain hazardous materials, reportedly spontaneous combustibles.

The ship, Zim Kingston, was inbound to Vancouver, B.C.

The U.S. Coast Guard said it stopped in Victoria after the incident so crews could take an inventory.

A Canadian Coast Guard spokesperson said flames broke out on the cargo ship around 11 a.m. Saturday, and were related to two damaged containers carrying hazardous materials, Global News reported.

“The Canadian Coast Guard has deployed two vessels which were standing by and ready to assist if an evacuation was needed, while a fireboat from CFB Esquimalt was also responding,” Global News reported.

Meanwhile, Coast Guards from the U.S. and Canada are jointly monitoring loose containers.

Strohmaier said because of the incoming storm, five container ships waiting off the Washington coast for dock space to free up in Puget Sound had come to the Strait of Juan de Fuca to seek relative shelter and were essentially “doing laps” between Neah Bay and Port Angeles. Strohmaier said another five vessels were expected to do the same.

The backlog at West Coast ports means more ships are drifting off the coast or anchored in Puget Sound. Strohmaier said 15 vessels were anchored Friday, and would be required to turn on their engines if a gale warning is issued so they don’t drag anchor.

Those ships also have Coast Guard GPS monitors aboard. “If they start to drift out of those circles, we can tell them, engage your engines, deploy a second anchor, whatever, to get back in that parking spot,” Strohmaier said.

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