The ship that dumped more than 100 shipping containers off the Washington coast was waiting on the high seas as it could have weathered the storm in more sheltered waters.
Inflatable toys. Ground sheet. Rubber boots. Baby oil. Chinese ladies. Refrigerators.
Just some of the trash that spoils a wild beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island in Canada after four shipping containers washed up there and one broke.
The degraded coast followed the freighter Zim Kingston’s spill of about 107 shipping containers in the Pacific off the Washington coast five days earlier and 200 miles south.
A day after the container spill, the storm-shaken ship caught fire at anchor outside Victoria, where two more containers are believed to have fallen overboard. Tire containers on board continued to smolder Thursday evening.
Port Hardy schoolteacher Jerika McArter took her class of grades 8-12 students from the Eke Me-Xi Learning Center for their weekly field learning class to a beach near the provincial park Cape Scott and the northwestern tip of Vancouver Island.
“We go out every Wednesday to learn on the ground,” she said in a text message to KUOW. “Different destination each week, discover the land on which we live, its habitats [has]. “
McArter said they weren’t prepared for what they encountered.
“At first we didn’t realize the extent, so it was pretty exciting,” she said. “But when we walked further down the beach there was a lot of shock, fear of what will happen with it all, how many years it will take to clean it up, sadness, anger. In the waves you could see more debris floating around, just submerging it all. “
Canadian Coast Guard officials said Thursday they spotted one of four stranded containers refloated by the tides and transported near Cape Sutil, the northernmost point on Vancouver Island.
Two of the 109 lost containers are known to contain combustible and hazardous materials: amyl potassium xanthate, used in mines and pulp mills, and thiourea dioxide, used to make textiles. Canadian officials say the four containers washed up near Cape Brooks did not contain these materials.
According to Environment and Climate Change Canada’s drift modeling, all containers that have not yet sunk to the ocean floor should continue to float north.
Under Canadian law, the shipowner, Danaos Shipping of Greece, is responsible for the cost of cleaning and fire fighting.
“To date, the Unified Command is satisfied with the actions taken by the owner both on the ship itself and in efforts to recover the containers and debris,” a Canadian government press release said Thursday.
Where the trouble started
The Zim Kingston, owned by a Greek company, chartered by an Israeli company and flying the Maltese flag, had crossed the Pacific from South Korea at about 11-15 knots (13-17 miles per hour) towards Vancouver . . After two weeks of transoceanic travel, she slowed to about 3 knots, the speed of a sea kayaker, about 40 miles from Cape Flattery at the tip of the Olympic Peninsula.
For about six hours, it maneuvered and drifted in high winds of around 40 miles per hour, according to trip data provided by MarineTraffic, an Athens-based marine analysis provider.
“The ship was sort of on hold because the anchorages on the US side and the Canadian side of the border are pretty full,” said Laird Hail of the US Coast Guard’s Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service.
The US Coast Guard reported waves of 16 to 20 feet in the Zim Kingston area.
“That’s enough to have a pretty serious impact on a boat,” said US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Diolanda Caballero.
Canada’s weather network reported a gust of 99 miles per hour hitting the ship.
At approximately 12:40 am, the Zim Kingston reported losing 40 of its 2,000 sea containers.
“The ship rolled at 35 degrees and with the height of these containers on a container ship, that puts a lot of pressure on the fasteners,” Hail said.
Other large ships of the time had taken refuge in the sheltered waters of the Salish Sea of Washington and British Columbia. A few busy anchorages made available to them to weather the storm. Others, up to 12 at a time, have lapsed on a 25-mile “race track” in the relatively sheltered Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Amid a resurgence in shipping to the west coast over the past 12 months, ports have retreated, forcing many ships to wait to unload their cargo.
“We haven’t always had room for ships to drop anchor, so a lot of them are standing offshore, waiting for a turn to enter Canadian or US waters to drop anchor,” he said. Hail said.
At this point, it is not known whether the Zim Kingston has been offered access to safer and more sheltered waters.
A spokesperson for Danaos Shipping declined to comment.
A spokesperson for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority said the Port of Vancouver had not received any requests to anchor the Zim Kingston.
West of the Washington coast, the captain of the Zim Kingston reportedly contacted vessel traffic controllers in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Canadian Coast Guard officials declined to discuss or publish these communications.
“We asked Prince Rupert to radio the ships that we would entertain them by entering and doing racetracks,” Hail said.
To the Port of Vancouver, the Zim Kingston would have been the most likely to contact Canadian authorities.
“Transport Canada is not assigning anchorages and has not ordered the MV Zim Kingston or any other vessel to stay at sea,” Sau Sau Liu spokesperson said in an email.
“To my knowledge, we haven’t had to turn away any ships,” said US Coast Guard Sector Commander Captain Patrick Hilbert.
The two nations’ vessel traffic services are like air traffic control at sea, except they do not have the power to order ships to safer places. They can only make suggestions.
“Not all ships have accepted these offers from us,” Hail said. “Some of them chose to stay offshore during the storm.”
The Suquamish tribe made their traditional waters just north of Bainbridge Island available for anchorage. Only one ship used this location. No large vessel has accepted the Port of Seattle’s offer to dock at its Terminal 46, Seattle Port Commission Chairman Fred Felleman said Thursday.
In addition to providing sheltered locations, maritime officials are working to reduce backlogs in the supply chain that lead some ships to choose to stroll offshore, even in rough seas.
Mike Moore of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association said some ships have had to wait up to two weeks, which is about the time it takes to cross the Pacific. He said his group had tried to get information on the availability of berths at U.S. ports for ships three to four weeks in advance, so they could plan their trips accordingly.
“They could choose, for example, to drop anchor in China before departure, or they could slow down the steam” – reducing their speed at sea to minimize both waiting time and fuel consumption – said Moore.
As another big fall storm approached the northwest coast on Thursday, six container ships were waiting offshore, three were at Juan de Fuca Racecourse and three were anchored in Puget Sound, according to reports. US Coast Guard officials.