Cargo ship that lost containers off Washington coast catches fire near Victoria, most crew evacuated

KIRO 7 Seattle
KIRO 7 Seattle

Most of the crew of a cargo ship anchored near Victoria, B.C., Canada was evacuated Saturday after the ship caught fire, according to Global News Canada.

At least 16 crew members were taken to Victoria’s Ogden Point by the Coast Guard Saturday night.

The ship, the MV Zim Kingston, is the same vessel that lost about 40 shipping containers 43 miles west of the Strait of Juan de Fuca during rough seas on Thursday, according to the United States Coast Guard.

A Canadian Coast Guard spokesperson said the flames that broke out on the ship around 11 a.m. were related to two damaged containers carrying hazardous materials used in mining, according to Global News.

On Thursday, the inbound ship listed to its side due to rough seas and lost the containers over the side.
MV Zim Kingston burning near Victoria MV Zim Kingston burning near Victoria. Photo credit: Jay Cline. (Jay Cline)

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.

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

A spokesperson for Maritime Forces Pacific told Global News the ship’s crew had tried to fight the fire, but were unsuccessful.

The Canadian Coast Guard deployed two boats, and a fireboat from Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt also responded.

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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